IV. And in this description of oaths those most lawful vows are included which are offered up in consequence of an abundance of blessings, either present or expected; but if any vows are made for contrary objects, it is not holy to ratify them, (13) for there are some men who swear, if chance so prompts them, to commit theft, or sacrilege, or adultery, or rape, or to inflict wounds or slaughter, or any similar acts of wickedness, and who perform them without any delay, making an excuse that they must keep their oaths, as if it were not better and more acceptable to God to do no iniquity, than to perform such a vow and oath as that. The national laws and ancient ordinances of every people are established for the sake of justice and of every virtue, and what else are laws and ordinances but the sacred words of nature having an authority and power in themselves, so that they differ in no respect from oaths? (14) And let every man who commits wicked actions because he is so bound by an oath, beware that he is not keeping his oath, but that he is rather violating one which is worthy of great care and attention to preserve it, which sets a seal as it were to what is honourable and just, for he is adding wickedness to wickedness, adding lawless actions to oaths taken on improper occasions, which had better have been buried in silence. (15) Let such a man, therefore, abstain from committing iniquity, and seek to propitiate God, that he may grant to him the mercy of that humane power which is innate in him, so as to pardon him for the oaths which he took in his folly. For it is incurable madness and insanity to take upon himself twofold evils, when he might put off one half of the burden of them. (16) But there are some men who, out of the excess of their wicked hatred of their species, being naturally unsociable and inhuman, or else being constrained by anger as by a hard mistress, think to confirm the savageness of their natural disposition by an oath, swearing that they will not admit this man or that man to sit at the same table with them, or to come under the same roof; or, again, that they will not give any assistance to such an one, or that they will not receive any from him as long as he lives. And sometimes even after the death of their enemy, they keep up their irreconcileable enmity, not allowing their friends to give the customary honours even to their dead bodies when in the grave. (17) I would recommend to such men, as to those I have mentioned before, to seek to propitiate the mercy of God by prayers and sacrifices, that so they may find some cure for the diseases of their souls which no man is competent to heal.
V. (18) But there are other persons, also, boastful, puffed up with pride and arrogance, who, being insatiably greedy of glory, are determined to obey none of the precepts which point to that most beneficial virtue, frugality; but even if any one exhorts them to it, in order to induce them to shake off the obstinate impetuosity of the appetites, they look upon all their admonitions as insults, and drive their course on headlong to every kind of effeminate luxury, despising those who seek to correct them, and making a joke of and turning into ridicule all the honourable and advantageous recommendations of wisdom. (19) And if such men happen to be in such circumstances as to have any abundance and superfluity of the means of living, they declare with positive oaths that they will indulge in all imaginable expense for the use and enjoyment of costly luxury. For instance, a man who has lately come into the enjoyment of considerable riches, embraces a prodigal and extravagant course of life; and when some old man, some relation perhaps, or some friend of his father, comes and admonishes him, exhorting him to alter his ways and to come over to a more honourable and strict behaviour, he is indignant beyond all measure at the advice, and being obstinate in his contentious disposition, swears that as long as he has the means and resources necessary for supplying his wants he will not practise any single way which leads to economy or moderation, neither in the city nor in the country, neither when travelling by sea nor by land, but that he will at all times and in all places show how rich and liberal he is; but as it seems to me such conduct as this is not so much a display of riches as of insolence and intemperance. (20) And yet many men who have before now been placed in situations of great authority, and even many who now are so, though they have most abundant resources of all kinds, and enormous riches, wealth continually and uninterruptedly flowing upon them as if from some unceasing spring, do nevertheless at times turn to the same things which we poor men use, to earthenware cups, and small cheap loaves, and olives, or cheese, or vegetables, for a seasoning to their dinners; and in the summer put on a girdle and a linen garment, and in winter any whole and stout cloak, and for sleep use a bed made on the ground, discarding gladly couches made of ivory or wrought in tortoiseshell and gold, and coverlets of various embroidery, and rich clothes and purple dyes, and the luxury of sweet and elaborate confectionery, and costly viands; (21) and the reason of this conduct is not merely that they have a virtuous and abstemious disposition by nature, but also that they have enjoyed a good education from their earliest youth, which has taught them to honour what belongs to man rather than what belongs to authority, which also taking up its settled abode in the soul, I may almost say reminds it every day of its humanity, drawing it down from lofty and arrogant thoughts, and reducing it within due bounds, and correcting whatever is unequal by the introduction of equality. (22) Therefore such men fill their cities with vigour and abundance, and with good laws and peace, depriving them of no good thing whatever, but providing them with all requisite blessings in the most unlimited and unsparing manner; for this conduct and actions of this sort are the achievements of men of real nobility, and of men who may truly be called governors. (23) But the actions of men newly become rich, of men who by some blunder of fortune have arrived at great wealth, who have no notion, not even in their dreams, of wealth which is genuine and truly endowed with sight, which consists of the perfect virtues, and of actions in accordance with such virtues, but who stumble against that wealth which is blind, leaning upon which, and therefore of necessity missing the right road, they turn into one which is no road at all, admiring objects which deserve no honour at all, and ridiculing things that are honourable by nature; men whom the word of God reproves and reproaches in no moderate degree for introducing oaths on unfitting occasions; for such men are difficult to purify and difficult to cure, so as not to be thought deserving pardon even by God, who is all-merciful by nature.