S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
Rare qualities may sometimes be prerogatives without being advantages; and though a needless ostentation of ones excellencies may be more glorious, a modest concealment of them is usually more safe; and an unseasonable disclosure of flashes of wit may sometimes do a man no other service than to direct his adversaries how they may do him a mischief.
As to great and commanding talents, they are the gift of Providence in some way unknown to us. They rise where they are least expected. They fail when everything seems disposed to produce them, or at least to call them forth.
The peculiar superiority of talent over riches may be best discovered from henceThat the influence of talent will always be the greatest in that government which is the most pure, while the influence of riches will always be the greatest in that government which is the most corrupt. So that from the preponderance of talent we may always infer the soundness and vigour of the commonwealth; but from the preponderance of riches, its dotage and degeneration.
Of him to whom much is given much shall be required.Those whom God has favoured with superior faculties, and made eminent for quickness of intention and accuracy of distinction, will certainly be regarded as culpable in his eye for defects and deviations which in souls less enlightened may be guiltless. But surely none can think without horror on that mans condition who has been more wicked in proportion as he had more means in excelling in virtue, and used the light imparted from heaven only to embellish folly and shed lustre upon crimes and infidelity.
Have you not observed that there is a lower kind of discretion and regularity, which seldom fails of raising men to the highest stations in the court, the church, and the law? Did you never observe one of your clerks cutting his paper with a blunt ivory knife? Did you ever know the knife to fail going the true way? Whereas if he had used a razor or a penknife, he had odds against himself of spoiling a whole sheet. I have twenty times compared the notion of that ivory implement to those talents that thrive best at court.
The goods of this world are not at all a trifling concern to Christians, considered as Christians. Whether, indeed, we ourselves shall have enjoyed a large or a small share of them, will be of no importance to us a hundred years hence; but it will be of the greatest importance whether we shall have employed the faculties and opportunities granted to us, in the increase and diffusion of those benefits among others . Every situation in which man can be placed has, along with its own peculiar advantages, its own peculiar difficulties and trials also; which we are called on to exert our faculties in providing against. The most fertile soil does not necessarily bear the most abundant harvest: its weeds, if neglected, will grow the rankest. And the servant who has received but one talent, if he put it out to use, will fare better than he who has been intrusted with five, if he squander or bury them. But still, this last does not suffer because he received five talents; but because he has not used them to advantage.
Richard Whately: Annot. on Bacons Essay, Of Riches.