Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. X:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Dogmatic Treatises, Ethical Works, and Sermons.: Chapter VIII. Nothing has greater effect in gaining good-will than giving advice; but none can trust it unless it rests on justice and prudence. How conspicuous these two virtues were in Solomon is shown by his well-known judgment.
Nothing has greater effect in gaining good-will than giving advice; but none can trust it unless it rests on justice and prudence. How conspicuous these two virtues were in Solomon is shown by his well-known judgment.
40. Two things, therefore, love and confidence, are the most efficacious in commending us to others; also this third quality if thou hast it, namely, what many consider to be worthy of admiration in thee, and think to be rightly worthy of honour 445 [the power, in fact, of giving good advice].
41. Since the giving of good advice is a great means of gaining mens affections, prudence and justice are much needed in every case. These are looked for by most, so that confidence at once is placed in him in whom they exist, because he can give useful and trustworthy advice to whoever wants it. Who will put himself into the hands of a man whom he does not think to be more wise than himself who asks for advice? It is necessary therefore that he of whom advice is asked should be superior to him who asks it. For why should we consult a man when we do not think that he can make anything more plain than we ourselves see it?
42. But if we have found a man that by the vigour of his character, by his strength of mind and influence, stands forth above all others, and further, is better fitted by example and experience than others; that can put an end to immediate dangers, foresee future ones, point out those close at hand, can explain a subject, bring relief in time, is ready not only to give advice but also to give help,—in such a man confidence is placed, so that he who seeks advice can say: “Though evil should happen to me through him, I will bear it.” 446
43. To a man of this sort then we entrust our safety and our reputation, for he is, as we said before, just and prudent. Justice causes us to have no fear of deceit, and prudence frees us from having any suspicions of error. However, we trust ourselves more readily to a just than to a prudent man, to put it in the way people generally do. But, according to the definition of the philosophers, where there is one virtue, others exist too, 447 whilst prudence cannot exist without justice. We find this stated also in our writers, for David says: “The just showeth mercy and lendeth.” 448 What the just lends, he says elsewhere: “A good man is he that showeth mercy and lendeth, he will guide his words with discretion.” 449
44. Is not that noble judgment of Solomon full of wisdom and justice? Let us see whether it is so. 450 “Two women,” it says, “stood before King Solomon, and the one said to him, Hear me, my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house, and before the third day we gave birth and bore a son apiece, and were together, there was no witness in the house, nor any other woman with us, only we two alone. And her son died this night, because she overlaid it, and she arose at midnight, and took my son from my breast, and laid it in her bosom, and her dead child she laid at my breast. And I arose in the morning to give my child suck, and found him dead. And I considered it at dawn, and behold it was not my son. And the other woman said, Nay, but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son.”
45. This was their dispute, in which either tried to claim the living child for herself, and denied that the dead one was hers. Then the king commanded a sword to be brought and the infant to be cut in half, and either piece to be given to one, one half to the one, and one half to the other. Then the woman whose the child really was, moved by her feelings, cried out: “Divide not the child, my lord; let it rather be given to her and live, and do not kill it.” But the other answered: “Let it be neither mine nor hers, divide it.” Then the king ordered that the p. 51 infant should be given to the woman who had said: Do not kill it, but give it to that woman; “For,” as it says, “her bowels yearned upon her son.” 451
46. It is not wrong to suppose that the mind of God was in him; for what is hidden from God? What can be more hidden than the witness that lies deep within; into which the mind of the wise king entered as though to judge a mothers feelings, and elicited as it were the voice of a mothers heart. For a mothers feelings were laid bare, when she chose that her son should live with another, rather than that he should be killed in his mothers sight.
47. It was therefore a sign of wisdom to distinguish between secret heart-thoughts, to draw the truth from hidden springs, and to pierce as it were with the sword of the Spirit not only the inward parts of the body, but even of the mind and soul. It was the part of justice also that she who had killed her own child should not take away anothers, but that the real mother should have her own back again. Indeed the Scriptures have declared this. “All Israel,” it says, “heard of the judgment which the king had judged, and they feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment.” 452 Solomon also himself had asked for wisdom, so that a prudent heart might be given him to hear and to judge with justice. 453
Cic. de Off. II. 9.50:446
Cic. de Off. II. 10.50:448
1 Kings 3.26 ff.51:451
1 Kings 3.26.51:452
1 Kings 3.28.51:453
1 Kings 3.9.
Next: Chapter IX. Though justice and prudence are inseparable, we must have respect to the ideas of people in general, for they make a distinction between the different cardinal virtues.
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