Can anything (says Plato) be more delightful than the hearing or the speaking of truth? For this reason it is that there is no conversation so agreeable that of a man of integrity, who hears without any intention to betray, and speaks without any intention to deceive. As an advocate was pleading the cause of his client in Rome, before one of the praetors, he could only produce a single witness in a point where the law required the testimony of two persons; upon which the advocate insisted on the integrity of the person whom he had produced, but the praetor told him that where the law required two witnesses he would not accept of one, though it were Cato himself. Such a speech, from a person who sat at the head of a court of justice, while Cato was still living, shows us, more than a thousand examples, the high reputation this great man had gained among his contemporaries on account of his sincerity.
2. As I was sitting (says an ancient writer) with some senators of Bruges, before the gate of the Senate-House, a certain beggar presented himself to us, and with sighs and tears, and many lamentable gestures, expressed to us his miserable poverty, and asked our alms, telling us at the same time, that he had about him a private maim and a secret mischief, which very shame restrained him from discovering to the eyes of men. We all pitying the case of the poor man, gave him each of us something, and departed. One, however, amongst us took an opportunity to send his servant after him, with orders to inquire of him what that private infirmity might be which he found such cause to be ashamed of, and was so loth to discover. The servant overtook him, and delivered his commission: and after having diligently viewed his face, breast, arms, legs, and finding all his limbs in apparent soundness, “Why, friend,” said he, “I see nothing whereof you have any such reason to complain.” “Alas! sir,” said the beggar, “the disease which afflicts me is far different from what you conceive, and is such as you cannot discern; yet it is an evil which hath crept over my whole body: it has passed through my very veins and marrow in such a manner that there is no member of my body that is able to work for my daily bread. This disease is by some called idleness, and by others sloth.” The servant, hearing this singular apology, left him in great anger, and returned to his master with the above account; but before the company could send again to make further inquiry after him, the beggar had very prudently withdrawn himself.
3. Action, we are assured, keeps the soul in constant health; but idleness corrupts and rusts the mind; for a man of great abilities may by negligence and idleness become so mean and despicable as to be an incumbrance to society and a burthen to himself. When the Roman historians described an extraordinary man, it generally entered into his character, as an essential, that he was incredibili industria, diligentia singulari—of incredible industry, of singular diligence and application. And Cato, in Sallust, informs the Senate, that it was not so much the arms as the industry of their ancestors, which advanced the grandeur of Rome, and made her mistress of the world.