There are some benefits whereof a wicked man is wholly incapable; of
which hereafter. There are others, which are bestowed upon him, not
for his own sake, but for secondary reasons; and of these we have
spoken in part already. There are, moreover, certain common offices
of humanity, which are only allowed him as he is a man, and without
any regard either to vice or virtue. To pass over the first point; the
second must be handled with care and distinction, and not without some
seeming exceptions to the general rule; as first, here is no _choice_
or _intention_ in the case, but it is a good office done him for some
_by-interest_, or by _chance_. Secondly, There is no _judgment_ in
it neither, for it is to a _wicked man_. But to shorten the matter:
without these circumstances it is not properly a benefit; or at least
not to him; for it looks another way. I rescue a friend from thieves,
and the other escapes for company. I discharge a debt for a friend, and
the other comes off too: for they were both in a bond. The third is of
a great latitude, and varies according to the degree of generosity on
the one side, and of wickedness on the other. Some benefactors will
supererogate, and do more than they are bound to do; and some men are
so lewd, that it is dangerous to do them any sort of good; no, not so
much as by way of return or requital.

If the benefactor’s bounty must extend to the bad as well as the
good; put the case, that I promise a good office to an ungrateful
man; we are first to distinguish (as I said before) betwixt a _common
benefit_ and a _personal_; betwixt what is given for _merit_ and what
for _company_. Secondly, Whether or not we know the person to be
ungrateful, and can reasonably conclude, that this vice is _incurable_.
Thirdly, A consideration must be had of the promise, how far that may
oblige us. The two first points are cleared both in one: we cannot
justify any particular kindness for one that we conclude to be a
hopelessly wicked man: so that the force of the promise is in the
single point in question. In the promise of a good office to a wicked
or ungrateful man, I am to blame if I did it knowingly; and I am to
blame nevertheless, if I did it otherwise: but I must yet make it good,
(under due qualifications,) because I promised it; that is to say,
matters continuing in the same state, for no man is answerable for
accidents. I will sup at such a place though it be cold; I will rise
at such an hour though I be sleepy; but if it prove tempestuous, or
that I fall sick of a fever, I will neither do the one nor the other.
I promise to second a friend in a quarrel, or to plead his cause; and
when I come into the field, or into the court, it proves to be against
my father or my brother: I promise to go a journey with him, but there
is no traveling upon the road for robbing; my child is fallen sick; or
my wife is in labor: these circumstances are sufficient to discharge
me; for a promise against law or duty is void in its own nature.

The counsels of a wise man are certain, but events are uncertain: and
yet if I have passed a rash promise, I will in some degree punish the
temerity of making it with the damage of keeping it, unless it turn
very much to my shame or detriment, and then I will be my own confessor
in the point, and rather be once guilty of denying, than always of
giving. It is not with a benefit as with a debt—it is one thing to
trust an ill paymaster, and another thing to oblige an unworthy
person—the one is an ill man, and the other only an ill husband.

There was a valiant fellow in the army, that Philip of Macedon took
particular notice of, and he gave him several considerable marks of
the kindness he had for him. This soldier put to sea and was cast away
upon a coast where a charitable neighbor took him up half dead, carried
him to the house, and there, at his own charge maintained and provided
for him thirty days, until he was perfectly recovered, and, after all,
furnished him over and above, with a viaticum at parting. The soldier
told him the mighty matters that he would do for him in return, so soon
as he should have the honor once again to see his master. To court he
goes, tells Philip of the wreck, but not a syllable of his preserver,
and begs the estate of this very man that kept him alive. It was with
Philip as it was with many other princes, they give they know not
what, especially in a time of war. He granted the soldier his request,
contemplating at the same time, the impossibility of satisfying so many
ravenous appetites as he had to please. When the good man came to be
turned out of all, he was not so mealy-mouthed as to thank his majesty
for not giving away his person too as well as his fortune; but in a
bold, frank letter to Philip, made a just report of the whole story.
The king was so incensed at the abuse, that he immediately commanded
the right owner to be restored to his estate, and the unthankful guest
and soldier to be stigmatized for an example to others.

Should Philip now have kept this promise? First, he owed the soldier
nothing. Secondly, it would have been injurious and impious; and,
lastly, a precedent of dangerous consequence to human society; for it
would have been little less than an interdiction of fire and water to
the miserable, to have inflicted such a penalty upon relieving them; so
that there must be always some tacit exception or reserve: _if I can_,
_if I may_; or, _if matters continue as they were_.

If it should be my fortune to receive a benefit from one that
afterwards betrays his country, I should still reckon myself obliged
to him for such a requital as might stand with my public duty; I
would not furnish him with arms, nor with money or credit, or levy
or pay soldiers; but I should not stick to gratify him at my own
expense with such curiosities as might please him one way without
doing mischief another. I would not do any thing that might contribute
to the support or advantage of his party. But what should I do now
in the case of a benefactor, that should afterwards become not only
mine and my country’s enemy, but the common enemy of mankind! I would
here distinguish betwixt the wickedness of a man and the cruelty of a
beast—betwixt a limited or a particular passion and a sanguinary rage
that extends to the hazard and destruction of human society. In the
former case I would quit scores, that I might have no more to do with
him; but if he comes once to delight in blood, and to act outrages
with greediness—to study and invent torments, and to take pleasure in
them—the law of reasonable nature has discharged me of such a debt.
But this is an impiety so rare that it might pass for a portent, and
be reckoned among comets and monsters. Let us therefore restrain our
discourse to such men as we detest without horror; such men as we see
every day in courts, camps, and upon the seats of justice; to such
wicked men I will return what I have received, without making any
advantage of their unrighteousness.

It does not divert the Almighty from being still gracious, though we
proceed daily in the abuse of his bounties. How many there are that
enjoy the comfort of the light that do not deserve it; that wish they
had never been born! and yet Nature goes quietly on with her work, and
allows them a being, even in despite of their unthankfulness. Such
a knave, we cry, was better used than I: and the same complaint we
extend to Providence itself. How many wicked men have good crops, when
better than themselves have their fruits blasted! Such a man, we say,
has treated me very ill. Why, what should we do, but that very thing
which is done by God himself? that is to say, give to the ignorant,
and persevere to the wicked. All our ingratitude, we see, does not
turn Providence from pouring down of benefits, even upon those that
question whence they come. The wisdom of Heaven does all things with
a regard to the good of the universe, and the blessings of nature
are granted in common, to the worst as well as to the best of men;
for they live promiscuously together; and it is God’s will, that the
wicked shall rather fare the better for the good, than that the good
shall fare the worse for the wicked. It is true that a wise prince
will confer peculiar honors only upon the worthy; but in the dealing
of a public dole, there is no respect had to the manners of the man;
but a thief or traitor shall put in for a share as well as an honest
man. If a good man and a wicked man sail both in the same bottom, it
is impossible that the same wind which favors the one should cross the
other. The common benefits of laws, privileges, communities, letters,
and medicines, are permitted to the bad as well as to the good; and no
man ever yet suppressed a sovereign remedy for fear a wicked man might
be cured with it. Cities are built for both sorts, and the same remedy
works upon both alike. In these cases, we are to set an estimate upon
the persons: there is a great difference betwixt the choosing of a man
and the not excluding him: the law is open to the rebellious as well
as to the obedient: there are some benefits which, if they were not
allowed to all, could not be enjoyed by any. The sun was never made for
me, but for the comfort of the world, and for the providential order
of the seasons; and yet I am not without my private obligation also.
To conclude, he that will oblige the wicked and the ungrateful, must
resolve to oblige nobody; for in some sort or another we are all of us
wicked, we are all of us ungrateful, every man of us.

We have been discoursing all this while how far a wicked man may be
obliged, and the Stoics tell us at last, that he cannot be obliged
at all. For they make him incapable of any good, and consequently
of any benefit. But he has this advantage, that if he cannot be
obliged, he cannot be ungrateful: for if he cannot receive, he is not
bound to return. On the other side, a good man and an ungrateful,
are a contradiction: so that at this rate there is no such thing as
ingratitude in nature. They compare a wicked man’s mind to a vitiated
stomach; he corrupts whatever he receives, and the best nourishment
turns to the disease. But taking this for granted, a wicked man may
yet so far be obliged as to pass for ungrateful, if he does not
requite what he receives: for though it be not a perfect benefit, yet
he receives something like it. There are goods of the mind, the body,
and of fortune. Of the first sort, fools and wicked men are wholly
incapable; to the rest they may be admitted. But why should I call any
man ungrateful, you will say, for not restoring that which I deny to be
a benefit? I answer, that if the receiver take it for a benefit, and
fails of a return, it is ingratitude in him: for that which goes for an
obligation among wicked men, is an obligation upon them: and they may
pay one another in their own coin; the money is current, whether it be
gold or leather, when it comes once to be authorized. Nay, Cleanthes
carries it farther; he that is wanting, says he, to a kind office,
though it be no benefit, would have done the same thing if it had been
one; and is as guilty as a thief is, that has set his booty, and is
already armed and mounted with a purpose to seize it, though he has
not yet drawn blood. Wickedness is formed in the heart; and the matter
of fact is only the discovery and the execution of it. Now, though a
wicked man cannot either receive or bestow a benefit, because he wants
the will of doing good, and for that he is no longer wicked, when
virtue has taken possession of him; yet we commonly call it one, as we
call a man illiterate that is not learned, and naked that is not well
clad; not but that the one can read, and the other is covered.

The three main points in the question of benefits are, first, a
_judicious choice_ in the _object_; secondly, in the _matter_ of our
benevolence; and thirdly, a grateful _felicity_ in the _manner_ of
expressing it. But there are also incumbent upon the benefactor other
considerations, which will deserve a place in this discourse.

It is not enough to do one good turn, and to do it with a good grace
too, unless we follow it with more, and without either upbraiding or
repining. It is a common shift, to charge that upon the ingratitude
of the receiver, which, in truth, is most commonly the levity and
indiscretion of the giver; for all circumstances must be duly weighed
to consummate the action. Some there are that we find ungrateful; but
what with our forwardness, change of humor and reproaches, there are
more that we make so. And this is the business: we give with design,
and most to those that are able to give most again. We give to the
covetous, and to the ambitious; to those that can never be thankful,
(for their desires are insatiable,) and to those that _will_ not.
He that is a tribune would be prætor; the prætor, a consul; never
reflecting upon what he _was_, but only looking forward to what he
_would_ be. People are still computing, _Must I lose this or that
benefit_? If it be lost, the fault lies in the ill bestowing of it;
for rightly placed, it is as good as consecrated; if we be deceived
in another, let us not be deceived in ourselves too. A charitable man
will mend the matter: and say to himself, _Perhaps he has forgot it,
perchance he could not, perhaps he will yet requite it_. A patient
creditor will, of an ill paymaster, in time make a good one; an
obstinate goodness overcomes an ill disposition, as a barren soil is
made fruitful by care and tillage. But let a man be never so ungrateful
or inhuman, he shall never destroy the satisfaction of my having done a
good office.

But what if _others_ will be wicked? does it follow that we must be so
too? If _others_ will be ungrateful, must _we_ therefore be inhuman?
To give and to lose, is nothing; but to lose and to give still, is the
part of a great mind. And the others in effect is the greater loss;
for the one does but lose his benefit, and the other loses himself.
The light shines upon the profane and sacrilegious as well as upon the
righteous. How many disappointments do we meet with in our wives and
children, and yet we couple still? He that has lost one battle hazards
another. The mariner puts to sea again after a wreck. An illustrious
mind does not propose the profit of a good office, but the duty. If the
world be wicked, we should yet persevere in well-doing, even among evil
men. I had rather never receive a kindness than never bestow one: not
to return a benefit is the _greater_ sin, but not to _confer_ it is the
_earlier_. We cannot propose to ourselves a more glorious example than
that of the Almighty, who neither needs nor expects anything from us;
and yet he is continually showering down and distributing his mercies
and his grace among us, not only for our necessities, but also for
our delights; as fruits and seasons, rain and sunshine, veins of water
and of metal; and all this to the wicked as well as to the good, and
without any other end than the common benefit of the receivers. With
what face then can we be mercenary one to another, that have received
all things from Divine Providence _gratis_? It is a common saying, “I
gave such or such a man so much money: I would I had thrown it into
the sea;” and yet the merchant trades again after a piracy, and the
banker ventures afresh after a bad security. He that will do no good
offices after a disappointment, must stand still, and do just nothing
at all. The plow goes on after a barren year: and while the ashes
are yet warm, we raise a new house upon the ruins of a former. What
obligations can be greater than those which children receive from their
parents? and yet should we give them over in their infancy, it were all
to no purpose. Benefits, like grain, must be followed from the seed to
the harvest. I will not so much as leave any place for ingratitude. I
will pursue, and I will encompass the receiver with benefits; so that
let him look which way he will, his benefactor shall be still in his
eye, even when he would avoid his own memory: and then I will remit
to one man because he calls for it; to another, because he does not;
to a third, because he is wicked; and to a fourth, because he is the
contrary. I will cast away a good turn upon a bad man, and I will
requite a good one; the one because it is my duty, and the other that I
may not be in debt.

I do not love to hear any man complain that he has met with a thankless
man. If he has met but with one, he has either been very fortunate or
very careful. And yet care is not sufficient: for there is no way to
escape the hazard of losing a benefit but the not bestowing of it, and
to neglect a duty to myself for fear another should abuse it. It is
_another’s_ fault if he be ungrateful, but it is _mine_ if I do not
give. To find one thankful man, I will oblige a great many that are
not so. The business of mankind would be at a stand, if we should do
nothing for fear of miscarriages in matters of certain event. I will
try and believe all things, before I give any man over, and do all that
is possible that I may not lose a good office and a friend together.
What do I know but _he may misunderstand the obligation? business may
have put it out of his head, or taken him off from it: he may have
slipt his opportunity_. I will say, in excuse of human weakness, that
one man’s memory is not sufficient for all things; it is but a limited
capacity, so as to hold only so much, and no more: and when it is once
full, it must let out part of what it had to take in anything beside;
and the last benefit ever sits closest to us. In our youth we forget
the obligations of our infancy, and when we are men we forget those
of our youth. If nothing will prevail, let him keep what he has and
welcome; but let him have a care of returning evil for good, and making
it dangerous for a man to do his duty. I would no more give a benefit
for such a man, than I would lend money to a beggarly spendthrift; or
deposit any in the hands of a known _knight of the post_. However the
case stands, an ungrateful person is never the better for a reproach;
if he be already hardened in his wickedness, he gives no heed to it;
and if he be not, it turns a doubtful modesty into an incorrigible
impudence: beside that, he watches for all ill words to pick a quarrel
with them.

As the benefactor is not to upbraid a benefit, so neither to delay
it: the one is tiresome, and the other odious. We must not hold men
in hand, as physicians and surgeons do their patients, and keep them
longer in fear and pain than needs, only to magnify the cure. A
generous man gives easily, and receives as he gives, but never exacts.
He rejoices in the return, and judges favorably of it whatever it be,
and contents himself with bare thanks for a requital. It is a harder
matter with some to get the benefit after it is promised than the first
promise of it, there must be so many friends made in the case. One
must be desired to solicit another; and he must be entreated to move
a third; and a fourth must be at last besought to receive it; so that
the author, upon the upshot, has the least share in the obligation. It
is then welcome when it comes free, and without deduction; and no man
either to intercept or hinder, or to detain it. And let it be of such a
quality too, that it be not only delightful in the receiving, but after
it is received; which it will certainly be, if we do but observe this
rule, never to do any thing for another which we would not honestly
desire for ourselves.

There are certain rules in common betwixt the giver and the receiver.
We must do both cheerfully, that the giver may receive the fruit of
his benefit in the very act of bestowing it. It is a just ground of
satisfaction to _see_ a friend pleased; but it is much more to _make_
him so. The intention of the one is to be suited to the intention
of the other; and there must be an emulation betwixt them, whether
shall oblige most. Let the one say, that he has received a benefit,
and let the other persuade himself that he has not returned it. Let
the one say, _I am paid_, and the other, _I am yet in your debt_; let
the benefactor acquit the receiver, and the receiver bind himself.
The frankness of the discharge heightens the obligation. It is in
_conversation_ as in a _tennis-court_; benefits are to be tossed like
balls; the longer the rest, the better are the gamesters. The giver, in
some respect, has the odds, because (as in a race) he starts first, and
the other must use great diligence to overtake him. The return must be
larger than the first obligation to come up to it; and it is a kind of
ingratitude not to render it with interest. In a matter of money, it
is a common thing to pay a debt out of course, and before it be due;
but we account ourselves to owe nothing for a good office; whereas
the benefit increases by delay. So insensible are we of the most
important affair of human life! That man were doubtless in a miserable
condition, that could neither see, nor hear, nor taste, nor feel, nor
smell; but how much more unhappy is he then that, wanting a sense of
benefits, loses the greatest comfort in nature in the bliss of giving
and receiving them? He that takes a benefit as it is meant is in the
right; for the benefactor has then his end, and his only end, when the
receiver is grateful.

The more glorious part, in appearance, is that of the giver; but the
receiver has undoubtedly the harder game to play in many regards.
There are some from whom I would not accept of a benefit; that is to
say, from those upon whom I would not bestow one. For why should I not
scorn to receive a benefit where I am ashamed to own it? and I would
yet be more tender too, where I receive, than where I give; for it is
no torment to be in debt where a man has no mind to pay; as it is the
greatest delight imaginable to be engaged by a friend, whom I should
yet have a kindness for; if I were never so much disobliged. It is a
pain to an honest and a generous mind to lie under a duty of affection
against inclination. I do not speak here of wise men, that love to
do what they ought to do; that have their passions at command; that
prescribe laws to themselves, and keep them when they have done; but of
men in a state of imperfection, that may have a good will perhaps to
be honest, and yet be overborne by the contumacy of their affections.
We must therefore have a care to whom we become obliged; and I would
be much stricter yet in the choice of a creditor for benefits than for
money. In the one case, it is but paying what I had, and the debt is
discharged; in the other, I do not only owe more, but when I have paid
that, I am still in arrear: and this law is the very foundation of
friendship. I will suppose myself a prisoner; and a notorious villain
offers to lay down a good sum of money for my redemption. _First_,
Shall I make use of this money or not? _Secondly_, If I do, what return
shall I make him for it? To the first point, I will take it; but only
as a debt; not as a benefit, that shall ever tie me to a friendship
with him; and, secondly, my acknowledgment shall be only correspondent
to such an obligation. It is a school question, whether or not Brutus,
that thought Cæsar not fit to live, (and put himself at the head of a
conspiracy against him,) could honestly have received his life from
Cæsar, if he had fallen into Cæsar’s power, without examining what
reason moved him to that action? How great a man soever he was in
other cases, without dispute he was extremely out in this, and below
the dignity of his profession. For a Stoic to fear the name of a king,
when yet monarchy is the best state of government; or there to hope for
liberty, where so great rewards are propounded, both for tyrants and
their slaves; for him to imagine ever to bring the laws to their former
state, where so many thousand lives had been lost in the contest, not
so much whether they should serve or not, but who should be their
master: he was strangely mistaken, in the nature and reason of things,
to fancy, that when Julius was gone, somebody else would not start up
in his place, when there was yet a Tarquin found, after so many kings
that were destroyed, either by sword or thunder: and yet the resolution
is, that he might have received it, but not as a benefit; for at that
rate I owe my life to every man that does not take it away.

Græcinus Julius (whom Caligula put to death out of a pure malice to his
virtue) had a considerable sum of money sent him from Fabius Persicus
(a man of great and infamous example) as a contribution towards the
expense of plays and other public entertainments; but Julius would
not receive it; and some of his friends that had an eye more upon the
present than the presenter, asked him, with some freedom, what he meant
by refusing it? “Why,” says he, “do you think that I will take money
where I would not take so much as a glass of wine?” After this Rebilus
(a man of the same stamp) sent him a greater sum upon the same score.
“You must excuse me,” says he to the messenger, “for I would not take
any thing of Persicus neither.”

To match this scruple of receiving money with another of keeping it;
and the sum not above three pence, or a groat at most. There was a
certain Pythagorean that contracted with a cobbler for a pair of shoes,
and some three or four days after, going to pay him his money, the
shop was shut up; and when he had knocked a great while at the door,
“Friend,” says a fellow, “you may hammer your heart out there, for the
man that you look for is dead. And when our friends are dead, we hear
no more news of them; but yours, that are to live again, will shift
well enough,” (alluding to Pythagora’s transmigration). Upon this the
philosopher went away, with his money chinking in his hand, and well
enough content to save it: at last, his conscience took check at it;
and, upon reflection, “Though the man be dead,” says he, “to others, he
is alive to thee; pay him what thou owest him:” and so he went back
presently, and thrust it into his shop through the chink of the door.
Whatever we owe, it is our part to find where to pay it, and to do it
without asking too; for whether the creditor be good or bad, the debt
is still the same.

If a benefit be forced upon me, as from a tyrant, or a superior, where
it may be dangerous to refuse, this is rather obeying than receiving,
where the necessity destroys the choice. The way to know what I have a
mind to do, is to leave me at liberty whether I will do it or not; but
it is yet a benefit, if a man does me good in spite of my teeth; as it
is none, if I do any man good against my will. A man may both hate and
yet receive a benefit at the same time; the money is never the worse,
because a fool that is not read in coins refuses to take it. If the
thing be good for the receiver, and so intended, no matter how ill it
is taken. Nay, the receiver may be obliged, and not know it; but there
can be no benefit which is unknown to the giver. Neither will I, upon
any terms, receive a benefit from a worthy person that may do him a
mischief: it is the part of an enemy to save himself by doing another
man harm.

But whatever we do, let us be sure always to keep a grateful mind.
It is not enough to say, what requital shall a poor man offer to a
prince; or a slave to his patron; when it is the glory of gratitude
that it depends only upon the good will? Suppose a man defends my
fame; delivers me from beggary; saves my life; or gives me liberty,
that is more than life; how shall I be grateful to that man? I will
receive, cherish, and rejoice in the benefit. Take it kindly, and
it is requited: not that the debt itself is discharged, but it is
nevertheless a discharge of the conscience. I will yet distinguish
betwixt the debtor that becomes insolvent by expenses upon whores and
dice, and another that is undone by fire or thieves; nor do I take this
gratitude for a payment, but there is no danger, I presume, of being
arrested for such a debt.

In the return of benefits let us be ready and cheerful but not
pressing. There is as much greatness of mind in the owing of a good
turn as in doing of it; and we must no more force a requital out of
season than be wanting in it. He that precipitates a return, does
as good as say, “I am weary of being in this man’s debt:” not but
that the hastening of a requital, as a good office, is a commendable
disposition, but it is another thing to do it as a discharge; for it
looks like casting off a heavy and a troublesome burden. It is for the
benefactor to say _when_ he will receive it; no matter for the opinion
of the world, so long as I gratify my own conscience; for I cannot be
mistaken in myself, but another may. He that is over solicitous to
return a benefit, thinks the other so likewise to receive it. If he had
rather we should keep it, why should we refuse, and presume to dispose
of his treasure, who may call it in, or let it lie out, at his choice?
It is as much a fault to receive what I ought not, as not to give what
I ought; for the giver has the privilege of choosing his own time of

Some are too proud in the conferring of benefits; others, in the
receiving of them; which is, to say the truth, intolerable. The same
rule serves both sides, as in the case of a father and a son; a husband
and a wife; one friend or acquaintance and another, where the duties
are known and common. There are some that will not receive a benefit
but in private, nor thank you for it but in your ear, or in a corner;
there must be nothing under hand and seal, no brokers, notaries, or
witnesses, in the case: that is not so much a scruple of modesty as a
kind of denying the obligation, and only a less hardened ingratitude.
Some receive benefits so coldly and indifferently, that a man would
think the obligation lay on the other side: as who should say, “Well,
since you will needs have it so, I am content to take it.” Some again
so carelessly, as if they hardly knew of any such thing, whereas we
should rather aggravate the matter: “You cannot imagine how many
you have obliged in this act: there never was so great, so kind, so
seasonable a courtesy.” Furnius never gained so much upon Augustus as
by a speech, upon the getting of his father’s pardon for siding with
Antony: “This grace,” says he, “is the only injury that ever Cæsar did
me: for it has put me upon a necessity of living and dying ungrateful.”
It is safer to affront some people than to oblige them; for the better
a man deserves, the worse they will speak of him: as if the possessing
of open hatred to their benefactors were an argument that they lie
under no obligation. Some people are so sour and ill-natured, that they
take it for an affront to have an obligation or a return offered them,
to the discouragement both of bounty and gratitude together. The not
doing, and the not receiving, of benefits, are equally a mistake. He
that refuses a new one, seems to be offended at an old one: and yet
sometimes I would neither return a benefit, no, nor so much as receive
it, if I might.