THE BENEFACTOR MUST HAVE NO BY-ENDS

The question now before us requires _distinction_ and _caution_. For
though it be both natural and generous to wish well to my friend’s
friend, yet a _second-hand benefit_ does not bind me any further than
to a _second-hand gratitude_: so that I may receive great satisfaction
and advantage from a good office done to my friend, and yet lie under
no obligation myself; or, if any man thinks otherwise, I must ask
him, in the first place, Where it begins? and, How it extends? that
it may not be boundless. Suppose a man obliges the son, does that
obligation work upon the father? and why not upon the uncle too? the
brother? the wife? the sister? the mother? nay, upon all that have any
kindness for him? and upon all the lovers of his friends? and upon all
that love them too? and so _in infinitum_. In this case we must have
recourse, as is said heretofore, to the intention of the benefactor,
and fix the obligation upon him unto whom the kindness was directed.
If a man manures my ground, keeps my house from burning or falling,
it is a benefit to me, for I am the better for it, and my house and
land are insensible. But if he save the life of my son, the benefit is
to my son; it is a joy and a comfort to me, but no obligation. I am
as much concerned as I ought to be in the health, the felicity, and
the welfare of my son, as happy in the enjoyment of him; and I should
be as unhappy as is possible in his loss; but it does not follow that
I must of necessity lie under an obligation for being either happier
or less miserable, by another body’s means. There are some benefits,
which although conferred upon one man, may yet work upon others; as
a sum of money may be given to a poor man for his own sake, which in
the consequence proves the relief of his whole family; but still the
immediate receiver is the debtor for it; for the question is not, to
whom it comes afterward to be transferred, but who is the principal?
and upon whom it was first bestowed? My son’s life is as dear to me
as my own; and in saving him you preserve me too: in this case I will
acknowledge myself obliged to you, that is to say, in my son’s name;
for in my own, and in strictness, I am not; but I am content to make
myself a voluntary debtor. What if he had borrowed money? my paying
of it does not at all make it my debt. It would put me to the blush
perhaps to have him taken in bed with another man’s wife; but that does
not make me an adulterer. It is a wonderful delight and satisfaction
that I receive in his safety; but still this good is not a benefit. A
man may be the better for an animal, a plant, a stone; but there must
be a will, an intention, to make it an obligation. You save the son
without so much as knowing the father, nay, without so much as thinking
of him; and, perhaps you would have done the same thing even if you had
hated him.

But without any further alteration of dialogue, the conclusion is this;
if you meant him the kindness, he is answerable for it, and I may enjoy
the fruit of it without being obliged by it: but if it was done for
my sake, then I am accountable; or howsoever, upon any occasion, I am
ready to do you all the kind offices imaginable; not as the return of
a benefit, but as the earnest of a friendship; which you are not to
challenge neither, but to entertain as an act of honor and of justice,
rather than of gratitude. If a man find the body of my dead father in
a desert, and give it a burial; if he did it as to my father, I am
beholden to him: but if the body was unknown to him, and that he would
have done the same thing for any other body, I am no farther concerned
in it than as a piece of public humanity.

There are, moreover, some cases wherein an unworthy person may be
obliged and for the sake of others: and the sottish extract of an
ancient nobilty may be preferred before a better man that is but of
yesterday’s standing. And it is but reasonable to pay a reverence
even to the memory of eminent virtues. He that is not illustrious in
himself, may yet be reputed so in the right of his ancestors: and
there is a gratitude to be entailed upon the offspring of famous
progenitors. Was it not for the _father’s_ sake that Cicero the _son_
was made counsel? and was it not the eminence of one Pompey that raised
and dignified the rest of his family? How came Caligula to be emperor
of the world? a man so cruel, that he spilt blood as greedily as if
he were to drink it; the empire was not given to himself, but to his
father Germanicus. A brave man deserved that for him, which he could
never have challenged upon his own merit. What was it that preferred
Fabius Persicus, (whose very mouth was the uncleanest part about him,)
what was it but the 300 of that family that so generously opposed the
enemy for the safety of the commonwealth?

Nay, Providence itself is gracious to the wicked posterity of an
honorable race. The counsels of heaven are guided by wisdom, mercy, and
justice. Some men are made kings of their proper virtues, without any
respect to their predecessors: others for their ancestors’ sakes, whose
virtues, though neglected in their lives, come to be afterward rewarded
in their issues. And it is but equity, that our gratitude should extend
as far as the influence of their heroical actions and examples.

We come now to the main point of the matter in question: that is to
say, whether or not it be a thing desirable in itself, the giving and
receiving of benefits? There is a sect of philosophers that accounts
nothing valuable but what is profitable, and so makes all virtue
mercenary; an unmanly mistake to imagine, that the hope of gain, or
fear of loss, should make a man either the more or less honest. As
who should say, “What will I get by it, and I will be an honest man?”
Whereas, on the contrary, honesty is a thing in itself to be purchased
at any rate. It is not for a body to say, “It will be a charge, a
hazard, I shall give offence,” etc. My business is to do what I ought
to do: all other considerations are foreign to the office. Whensoever
my duty calls me, it is my part to attend, without scrupulizing upon
forms or difficulties. Shall I see an honest man oppressed at the bar,
and not assist him, for fear of a court faction? or not second him upon
the highway against thieves, for fear of a broken head? and choose
rather to sit still, the quiet spectator of fraud and violence? Why
will men be just, temperate, generous, brave, but because it carries
along with it fame and a good conscience? and for the same reason, and
no other, (to apply it to the subject in hand,) let a man also be
bountiful. The school of Epicurus, I am sure, will never swallow this
doctrine: (that effeminate tribe of lazy and voluptuous philosophers;)
they will tell you, that virtue is but the servant and vassal of
pleasure. “No,” says Epicurus, “I am not for pleasure neither without
virtue.” But, why then for pleasure, say I, _before_ virtue? Not that
the stress of the controversy lies upon the _order_ only; for the
_power_ of it, as well as the _dignity_, is now under debate. It is
the office of virtue to superintend, to lead, and to govern; but the
parts you have assigned it, are to submit, to follow, and to be under
command. But this, you will say, is nothing to the purpose, so long as
both sides are agreed, that there can be no happiness without _virtue_:
“Take away that,” says Epicurus, “and I am as little a friend to
pleasure as you.” The pinch, in short, is this, whether virtue itself
be the supreme good or the only cause of it? It is not the inverting of
the order that will clear this point; (though it is a very preposterous
error, to set that first which should be last.) It does not half
so much offend me; ranging of pleasure before virtue, as the very
comparing of them; and the bringing of the two opposites, and professed
enemies, into any sort of competition.

The drift of this discourse is, to support the cause of benefits; and
to prove, that it is a mean and dishonorable thing to give for any
other end than for giving’s sake. He that gives for gain, profit, or
any by-end, destroys the very intent of bounty; for it falls only upon
those that do not want, and perverts the charitable inclinations of
princes and of great men, who cannot reasonably propound to themselves
any such end. What does the sun get by travelling about the universe;
by visiting and comforting all the quarters of the earth? Is the whole
creation made and ordered for the good of mankind, and every particular
man only for the good of himself? There passes not an hour of our
lives, wherein we do not enjoy the blessings of Providence, without
measure and without intermission. And what design can the Almighty have
upon us, who is in himself full, safe, and inviolable? If he should
give only for his own sake, what would become of poor mortals, that
have nothing to return him at best but dutiful acknowledgments? It is
putting out of a benefit to interest only to bestow where we may place
it to advantage.

Let us be liberal then, after the example of our great Creator, and
give to others with the same consideration that he gives to us.
Epicurus’s answer will be to this, that God gives no benefits at all,
but turns his back upon the world; and without any concern for us,
leaves Nature to take her course: and whether he does anything himself,
or nothing, he takes no notice, however, either of the good or of the
ill that is done here below. If there were not an ordering and an
over-ruling Providence, how comes it (say I, on the other side) that
the universality of mankind should ever have so unanimously agreed in
the madness of worshipping a power that can neither hear nor help us?
Some blessings are freely given us; others upon our prayers are granted
us; and every day brings forth instances of great and of seasonable
mercies. There never was yet any man so insensible as not to feel, see,
and understand, a Deity in the ordinary methods of nature, though many
have been so obstinately ungrateful as not to confess it; nor is any
man so wretched as not to be a partaker in that divine bounty. Some
benefits, it is true, may appear to be unequally divided; but it is
no small matter yet that we possess in common: and which Nature has
bestowed upon us in her very self. If God be not bountiful, whence is
it that we have all that we pretend to? That which we give, and that
which we deny, that which we lay up, and that which we squander away?
Those innumerable delights for the entertainment of our eyes, our
ears, and our understandings? nay, that copious matter even for luxury
itself? For care is taken, not only for our necessities, but also for
our pleasures, and for the gratifying of all our senses and appetites.
So many pleasant groves; fruitful and salutary plants; so many fair
rivers that serve us, both for recreation, plenty, and commerce:
vicissitudes of seasons; varieties of food, by nature made ready to our
hands, and the whole creation itself subjected to mankind for health,
medicine and dominion. We can be thankful to a friend for a few acres,
or a little money: and yet for the freedom and command of the whole
earth, and for the great benefits of our being, as life, health, and
reason, we look upon ourselves as under no obligation. If a man bestows
upon us a house that is delicately beautified with paintings, statues,
gildings, and marble, we make a mighty business of it, and yet it lies
at the mercy of a puff of wind, the snuff of a candle, and a hundred
other accidents, to lay it in the dust. And is it nothing now to sleep
under the canopy of heaven, where we have the globe of the earth for
our place of repose, and the glories of the heavens for our spectacle?
How comes it that we should so much value what we have, and yet at
the same time be so unthankful for it? Whence is it that we have our
breath, the comforts of light and of heat, the very blood that runs in
our veins? the cattle that feed us, and the fruits of the earth that
feed them? Whence have we the growth of our bodies, the succession of
our ages, and the faculties of our minds? so many veins of metals,
quarries of marble, etc. The seed of everything is in itself, and it is
the blessing of God that raises it out of the dark into act and motion.
To say nothing of the charming varieties of music, beautiful objects,
delicious provisions for the palate, exquisite perfumes, which are cast
in, over and above, to the common necessities of our being.

All this, says Epicurus, we are to ascribe to Nature. And why not to
God, I beseech ye? as if they were not both of them one and the same
power, working in the whole, and in every part of it. Or, if you call
him the Almighty Jupiter; the Thunderer; the Creator and Preserver of
us all: it comes to the same issue; some will express him under the
notion of _Fate_; which is only a connexion of causes, and himself the
uppermost and original, upon which all the rest depend. The Stoics
represent the several _functions_ of the _Almighty Power_ under
several _appellations_. When they speak of him as the father and the
fountain of all beings, they call him _Bacchus_: and under the name of
_Hercules_, they denote him to be _indefatigable_ and _invincible_; and
in the contemplation of him in the _reason_, _order_, _proportion_, and
_wisdom_ of his proceedings, they call him _Mercury_; so that which way
soever they look, and under what name soever they couch their meaning,
they never fail of finding him; for he is everywhere, and fills his
own work. If a man should borrow money of Seneca, and say that he owes
it to Amnæus or Lucius, he may change the name but not his creditor;
for let him take which of the three names he pleases, he is still a
debtor to the same person. As justice, integrity, prudence, frugality,
fortitude, are all of them goods of one and the same mind, so that
whichsoever of them pleases us, we cannot distinctly say that it is
this or that, but the mind.

But, not to carry this digression too far; that which God himself does,
we are sure is well done; and we are no less sure, that for whatsoever
he gives, he neither wants, expects, nor receives, anything in return;
so that the end of a benefit ought to be the advantage of the receiver;
and that must be our scope without any by-regard to ourselves. It is
objected to us, the singular caution we prescribe in the choice of the
person: for it were a madness, we say, for a husbandman to sow the
sand: which, if true, say they, you have an eye upon profit, as well
in giving as in plowing and sowing. And then they say again, that if
the conferring of a benefit were desirable in itself, it would have
no dependence upon the choice of a man; for let us give it when, how,
or wheresoever we please, it would be still a benefit. This does not
at all affect our assertion; for the person, the matter, the manner,
and the time, are circumstances absolutely necessary to the reason of
the action: there must be a right judgment in all respects to make it
a benefit. It is my duty to be true to a trust, and yet there may be
a time or a place, wherein I would make little difference betwixt the
renouncing of it and the delivering of it up; and the same rule holds
in benefits; I will neither render the one, nor bestow the other, to
the damage of the receiver. A wicked man will run all risks to do
an injury, and to compass his revenge; and shall not an honest man
venture as far to do a good office? All benefits must be gratuitous. A
merchant sells me the corn that keeps me and my family from starving;
but he sold it for his interests, as well as I bought it for mine;
and so I owe him nothing for it. He that gives for profit, gives to
himself; as a physician or a lawyer, gives counsel for a fee, and only
makes use of me for his own ends; as a grazier fats his cattle to
bring them to a better market. This is more properly the driving of a
trade than the cultivating of a generous commerce. This for that, is
rather a truck than a benefit; and he deserves to be cozened that gives
any thing in hope of a return. And in truth, what end should a man
honorably propound? not _profit_; sure that is _vulgar_ and _mechanic_;
and he that does not contemn it can never be grateful. And then for
_glory_, it is a mighty matter indeed for a man to boast of doing his
duty. We are to _give_, if it were only to avoid _not giving_; if any
thing comes of it, it is clear gain; and, at worst, there is nothing
lost; beside, that one benefit well placed makes amends for a thousand
miscarriages. It is not that I would exclude the benefactor neither for
being himself the better for a good office he does for another. Some
there are that do us good only for their own sakes; others for ours;
and some again for both. He that does it for me in common with himself,
if he had a prospect upon both in the doing it, I am obliged to him for
it; and glad with all my heart that he had a share in it. Nay, I were
ungrateful and unjust if I should not rejoice, that what was beneficial
to me might be so likewise to himself.

To pass now to the matter of gratitude and ingratitude. There never
was any man yet so wicked as not to approve of the one, and detest
the other; as the two things in the whole world, the one to be the
most abominated, the other the most esteemed. The very story of an
ungrateful action puts us out of all patience, and gives us a loathing
for the author of it. “That inhuman villain,” we cry, “to do so horrid
a thing:” not, “that inconsiderate fool for omitting so profitable a
virtue;” which plainly shows the sense we naturally have, both of the
one and of the other, and that we are led to it by a common impulse of
reason and of conscience. Epicurus fancies God to be without power,
and without arms; above fear himself, and as little to be feared. He
places him betwixt the orbs, solitary and idle, out of the reach of
mortals, and neither hearing our prayers nor minding our concerns;
and allows him only such a veneration and respect as we pay to our
parents. If a man should ask him now, why any reverence at all, if we
have no obligation to him, or rather, why that greater reverence to his
fortuitous atoms? his answer would be, that it was for their majesty
and their admirable nature, and not out of any hope or expectation from
them. So that by his proper confession, a thing may be desirable for
its own worth. But, says he, gratitude is a virtue that has commonly
profit annexed to it. And where is the virtue, say I, that has not? but
still the virtue is to be valued for itself, and not for the profit
that attends it. There is no question, but gratitude for benefits
received is the ready way to procure more; and in requiting one friend
we encourage many: but these accessions fall in by the by; and if I
were sure that the doing of good offices would be my ruin, I would yet
pursue them. He that visits the sick, in hope of a legacy, let him be
never so friendly in all other cases, I look upon him in this to be no
better than a raven, that watches a weak sheep only to peck out the
eyes of it. We never give with so much judgment or care, as when we
consider the honesty of the action, without any regard to the profit of
it; for our understandings are corrupted by fear, hope, and pleasure.

If the world were wise, and as honest as it should be, there would be
no need of caution or precept how to behave ourselves in our several
stations and duties; for both the giver and the receiver would do what
they ought to do on their own accord: the one would be bountiful, and
the other grateful, and the only way of minding a man of one good turn
would be the following of it with another. But as the case stands, we
must take other measures, and consult the best we can, the common ease
and relief of mankind.

As there are several sorts of ungrateful men, so there must be several
ways of dealing with them, either by artifice, counsel, admonition,
or reproof, according to the humor of the person, and the degree of
the offence: provided always, that as well in the reminding a man of
a benefit, as in the bestowing of it, the good of the receiver be
the principal thing intended. There is a curable ingratitude, and an
incurable; there is a slothful, a neglectful, a proud, a dissembling, a
disclaiming, a heedless, a forgetful, and a malicious ingratitude; and
the application must be suited to the matter we have to work upon. A
gentle nature may be reclaimed by authority, advice, or reprehension;
a father, a husband, a friend may do good in the case. There are a sort
of lazy and sluggish people, that live as if they were asleep, and must
be lugged and pinched to wake them. These men are betwixt grateful
and ungrateful; they will neither deny an obligation nor return it,
and only want quickening. I will do all I can to hinder any man from
ill-doing, but especially a friend; and yet more especially from doing
ill to me. I will rub up his memory with new benefits: if that will not
serve, I will proceed to good counsel, and from thence to rebuke: if
all fails, I will look upon him as a desperate debtor, and even let him
alone in his ingratitude, without making him my enemy: for no necessity
shall ever make me spend time in wrangling with any man upon that point.

Assiduity of obligation strikes upon the conscience as well as the
memory, and pursues an ungrateful man till he becomes grateful: if one
good office will not do it, try a second, and then a third. No man can
be so thankless, but either shame, occasion, or example, will, at some
time or other, prevail upon him. The very beasts themselves, even lions
and tigers, are gained by good usage: beside, that one obligation does
naturally draw on another; and a man would not willingly leave his own
work imperfect. “I have helped him thus far, and I will even go through
with it now.” So that, over and above the delight and the virtue of
obliging, one good turn is a shouting-horn to another. This, of all
hints, is perhaps the most effectual, as well as the most generous.

In some cases it must be carried more home: as in that of Julius Cæsar,
who, as he was hearing a cause, the defendant finding himself pinched;
“Sir,” says he, “do not you remember a strain you got in your ankle
when you commanded in Spain; and that a soldier lent you his cloak
for a cushion, upon the top of a craggy rock, under the shade of a
little tree, in the heat of the day?” “I remember it perfectly well,”
says Cæsar, “and that when I was ready to choke with thirst, an honest
fellow fetched me a draught of water in his helmet.” “But that man, and
that helmet,” says the soldier, “does Cæsar think that he could not
know them again, if he saw them?” “The man, perchance, I might,” says
Cæsar, somewhat offended, “but not the helmet. But what is the story
to my business? you are none of the man.” “Pardon me, Sir,” says the
soldier, “I am that very man; but Cæsar may well forget me: for I have
been trepanned since, and lost an eye at the battle of Munda, where
that helmet too had the honor to be cleft with a Spanish blade.” Cæsar
took it as it was intended: and it was an honorable and a prudent way
of refreshing his memory. But this would not have gone down so well
with Tiberius: for when an old acquaintance of his began his address
to him with, “You remember, Cæsar.” “No,” says Cæsar, (cutting him
short,) “I do not remember what I WAS.” Now, with him, it was better
to be forgotten than remembered; for an _old friend_ was as bad as an
_informer_. It is a common thing for men to hate the authors of their
preferment, as the witnesses of their mean original.

There are some people well enough disposed to be grateful, but
they cannot hit upon it without a prompter; they are a little like
school-boys that have treacherous memories; it is but helping them
here and there with a word, when they stick, and they will go through
with their lesson; they must be taught to be thankful, and it is a
fair step, if we can but bring them to be willing, and only offer
at it. Some benefits we have neglected; some we are not willing to
remember. He is ungrateful that disowns an obligation, and so is he
that dissembles it, or to his power does not requite it; but the worst
of all is he that forgets it. Conscience, or occasion, may revive the
rest; but here the very memory of it is lost. Those eyes that cannot
endure the light are weak, but those are stark blind that cannot see
it. I do not love to hear people say, “Alas! poor man, he has forgotten
it,” as if that were the excuse of ingratitude, which is the very cause
of it: for if he were not ungrateful, he would not be forgetful, and
lay that out of the way which should be always uppermost and in sight.
He that thinks as he ought to do, of requiting a benefit, is in no
danger of forgetting it. There are, indeed, some benefits so great that
they can never slip the memory; but those which are less in value, and
more in number, do commonly escape us. We are apt enough to acknowledge
that “such a man has been the making of us;” so long as we are in
possession of the advantage he has brought us; but new appetites deface
old kindnesses, and we carry our prospect forward to something more,
without considering what we have obtained already. All that is past
we give for lost; so that we are only intent upon the future. When a
benefit is once out of sight, or out of use, it is buried.

It is the freak of many people, they cannot do a good office but they
are presently boasting of it, drunk or sober: and about it goes into
all companies what wonderful things they have done for this man, and
what for the other. A foolish and a dangerous vanity, of a doubtful
friend to make a certain enemy. For these reproaches and contempts will
set everybody’s tongue a walking; and people will conclude that these
things would never be, if there were not something very extraordinary
in the bottom of it. When it comes to that once, there is not any
calumny but fastens more or less, nor any falsehood so incredible, but
in some part or other of it, shall pass for a truth. Our great mistake
is this, we are still inclined to make the most of what we give, and
the least of what we receive; whereas we should do the clean contrary.
“It might have been more, but he had a great many to oblige. It was as
much as he could well spare; but he will make it up some other time,”
etc. Nay, we should be so far from making publication of our bounties,
as not to hear them so much as mentioned without sweetening the matter:
as, “Alas, I owe him a great deal more than that comes to. If it were
in my power to serve him, I should be very glad of it.” And this, too,
not with the figure of a compliment, but with all humanity and truth.
There was a man of quality, that in the triumviral proscription, was
saved by one of Cæsar’s friends, who would be still twitting him with
it; who it was that preserved him, and telling him over and over, “you
had gone to pot, friend, but for me.” “Pr’ythee,” says the proscribed,
“let me hear no more of this, or even leave me as you found me: I am
thankful enough of myself to acknowledge that I owe you my life, but it
is death to have it rung in my ears perpetually as a reproach; it looks
as if you had only saved me to carry me about for a spectacle. I would
fain forget the misfortune that I was once a prisoner, without being
led in triumph every day of my life.”

Oh! the pride and folly of a great fortune, that turns benefits
into injuries! that delights in excesses, and disgraces every thing
it does! Who would receive any thing from it upon these terms? the
higher it raises us, the more sordid it makes us. Whatsoever it gives
it corrupts. What is there in it that should thus puff us up? by
what magic is it that we are so transformed, that we do no longer
know ourselves? Is it impossible for greatness to be liberal without
insolence? The benefits that we receive from our superiors are then
welcome when they come with an open hand, and a clear brow; without
either contumely or state; and so as to prevent our necessities. The
benefit is never the greater for the making of a bustle and a noise
about it: but the benefactor is much the less for the ostentation of
his good deeds; which makes that odious to us, which would otherwise
be delightful. Tiberius had gotten a trick, when any man begged money
of him, to refer him to the senate, where all the petitioners were to
deliver up the names of their creditors. His end perhaps was, to deter
men from asking, by exposing the condition of their fortunes to an
examination. But it was, however, a benefit turned unto a reprehension,
and he made a reproach of a bounty.

But it is not enough yet to forbear the casting of a benefit in a man’s
teeth; for there are some that will not allow it to be so much as
challenged. For an ill man, say they, will not make a return, though it
be demanded, and a good man will do it of himself: and then the asking
of it seems to turn it into a debt. It is a kind of injury to be too
quick with the former: for to call upon him too soon reproaches him, as
if he would not have done it otherwise. Nor would I recall a benefit
from any man so as to force it, but only to receive it. If I let him
quite alone, I make myself guilty of his ingratitude: and undo him for
want of plain dealing. A father reclaims a disobedient son, a wife
reclaims a dissolute husband; and one friend excites the languishing
kindness of another. How many men are lost for want of being touched to
the quick? So long as I am not pressed, I will rather desire a favor,
than so much as mention a requital; but if my country, my family, or
my liberty, be at stake, my zeal and indignation shall overrule my
modesty, and the world shall then understand that I have done all I
could, not to stand in need of an ungrateful man. And in conclusion the
necessity of receiving a benefit shall overcome the shame of recalling
it. Nor is it only allowable upon some exigents to put the receiver in
mind of a good turn, but it is many times for the common advantage of
both parties.

Share