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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter XXI. Esther in danger of her life followed the grace of virtue; nay, even a heathen king did so, when death was threatened to a man most friendly to him. For friendship must ever be combined with virtue, as the examples of Jonathan and Ahimelech show.

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Chapter XXI.

Esther in danger of her life followed the grace of virtue; nay, even a heathen king did so, when death was threatened to a man most friendly to him. For friendship must ever be combined with virtue, as the examples of Jonathan and Ahimelech show.

123. Why did Queen Esther 749 expose herself to death and not fear the wrath of a fierce king? Was it not to save her people from death, an act both seemly and virtuous? The king of Persia himself also, though fierce and proud, yet thought it seemly to show honour to the man who had given information about a plot which had been laid against himself, 750 to save a free people from slavery, to snatch them from death, and not to spare him who had pressed on such unseemly plans. So finally he handed over to the gallows 751 the man that stood second to himself, and whom he counted chief among all his friends, because he considered that he had dishonoured him by his false counsels.

124. For that commendable friendship which maintains virtue is to be preferred most certainly to wealth, or honours, or power. It is not wont to be preferred to virtue indeed, but to follow after it. 752 So it was with Jonathan, 753 who for his affection’s sake avoided not his father’s displeasure nor the danger to his own safety. So, too, it was with Ahimelech, who, to preserve the duties of hospitality, thought he must endure death rather than betray his friend when fleeing. 754


Footnotes

87:749

Esther iv. 16.

87:750

Esther vi. 10.

87:751

Esth. 7:9, 10.

87:752

Cic. de Off. III. 10, § 43.

87:753

1 Sam. 20.27.

87:754

1 Sam. 22.17.


Next: Chapter XXII. Virtue must never be given up for the sake of a friend. If, however, one has to bear witness against a friend, it must be done with caution. Between friends what candour is needed in opening the heart, what magnanimity in suffering, what freedom in finding fault! Friendship is the guardian of virtues, which are not to be found but in men of like character. It must be mild in rebuking and averse to seeking its own advantage; whence it happens that true friends are scarce among the rich. What is the dignity of friendship? The treachery of a friend, as it is worse, so it is also more hateful than another's, as is recognized from the example of Judas and of Job's friends.

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