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is presumed, that these will suffice. On the whole, we may learn, that God himself is well pleased with secrecy, and although for the good of his creatures, he has been pleased to reveal some things; yet his councils will, at all times, firmly stand ; for he is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.
We read that Cato often said to his friends, that of three things he had great reason to repent, if he ever neglected the true performance of them. The first, if he divulged any secret; the second, if he ventured on the water when he might stay on dry land; and the third, if he should let any day pass, in which he did not perform some good action. The two last are well worthy of observation ; but the first, at present, more especially demands our attention.
Alexander the Great, having received several letters of much importance from his mother, after he had read them in the presence of his dear friend Ephestion alone, drew forth his signet, and, without speaking, set it on Ephestion's lips, thereby intimating, that he, in whose bosom a man deposited his secrets, should have his lips so locked up, that he might never reveal them.
Among other instances on record, which point out the propriety of secrecy, it may not be disagreeable to the reader, to peruse the following story as related by Aulus Gellius, in his Attic nights.
The senators of ancient Rome had established it as a rule, that the son of each member might be admitted to hear the debates ; a practice, which was found to be productive of great utility, at youth were thus initiated into the principles of government, enabled to become good statesmen, and taught the truly important duty of keeping secrets.
It happened upon one occasion, that this venerable body being engaged in the discussion of a subject of more than usual importance, continued their sitting to a very late hour. No decision, however, took place on that night, and the body was adjourned till the following day, with an express injunction of secrecy. Amongst the other young Romans, who had attended at this interesting debate, was the son of Papirius,_whose family was one of the most illustrious in Rome.
The young man having come home, his mother with that curiosity, which is natural to her sex, was anxious to ascertain the weighty business, which had kept the senate so many hours longer in session than usual. He told her in the most courteous manner, that it was a matter which it was not in his power to reveal, as he, in common with others, had been laid under the most solemn injunction of secrecy.
His refusal made her more importunate, and nothing short of the information, which she required could satisfy her. By caresses and liberal promises, she ended-- * Toured to extort the secret; but her efforts were to no purpose, nor was she more successful when she resorted to blows.
The young man finding a mother's threats to be very unpleasant, and her stripes still more so, began to contrast the love, which he owed to her, with the duty which he owed to his father and to his country. He placed her and her insatiable curiosity in one scale, and his own honour, and the solemn injunction to secrecy in the other, when he found her intrinsic weight lighter than air; but in order to appease her, he invented the following ingenious fiction.
Dear mother, you may well blame the senate for their long sitting, at least for calling in question a case so important: for except the wives of senators be admitted to consult thereon, there can be no hope of a conclusion. I speak this, however, with diffidence, as I have been taught that modesty should ever be a distinguishing characteristic of a young man. When, therefore, I am in the presence of the senate, the high opinion, which I entertain of their gravity and wisdom confound me. To them, however, since you have obliged me to tell, it seems necessary for the increase of population, and for the public good, that every senator should be allowed to have two wives, or that their wives should have two husbands. I shall hardly, under one roof, call two men, by the name of father, but had rather call two women by the name of mother. This is the question, which has so much engrossed the attention of the senate, and to-morrow it must be decided.
The mother took all this for absolute truth. Her blood was speedily in a ferment, and she flew into a rage. I need not observe, that such sudden gusts of passion seldom admit of reflection; but that on the contrary, they hurry the faculties to greater rashness, by which we are rendered incapable of extricating ourselves from impending danger. So, without consulting any one, she forthwith sent information to the ladies of Rome concerning this weighty affair. The intelligence agitated the mind of every female. A meeting was immediately convoked, and though it has been said that an assembly of women could not be governed by one speaker ; yet this affair being so urgent, the least delay so dangerous, and the result of such infinite importance, the revealing woman was allowed to officiate for herself and associates.
On the ensuing morning, there was such a confusion at the senate door, that all Rome seemed to be in an uproar. It had been determined by these good ladies, that their intentions should not be revealed till they should be able to obtain an audience; and it was here proved to a demonstration, that women can keep a secret. They were admitted, and an oration delivered by the lady of Papirius, in which she requested, that women might have two husbands, rather than men two wives, &c.
On hearing a speech so very uncommon, the senators appeared thunderstruck, but upon the solution of the riddle, the noble youth was highly commended for his fidelity, and the ladies deemed it expedient to retire, not, however, without considerable confusion.
Nor should we forget the story of the faithful Anaxarches, as related by Pliny, who being taken up in order that his secrets might be extorted from him, bit his tongue in the midst, between his teeth, and threw it in the tyrant's face.
The Athenians had a statue of brass, which was an object of their adoration. The figure was made without a tongue, as an emblem of secrecy.
The Egyptians, likewise, worshipped HarpocraUs, whom they denominated the god of silence; for which reason he was always represented as holding his finger on his mouth. The Romans had a goddess of silence named Angerona, which was pictured in the same manner. Hence the Latin sentence linguam digito compesce, check your tongue by your finger.
The disciples of Plancus are greatly commended because no torment could induce them to confess a secret, with which their master had intrusted them. The servant of Cato the orator was, likewise tortured, with great cruelty, because he would not divulge the secrets of his master.
QuintusCurtius tells us, that among the Persians, it was held as an inviolable law, to punish, <bre severely than any other tresspasser, him, who discovered any secret. In confirmation of this, he says, that king Darius being vanquished by Alexander, had made his escape so far as to hide himself where he thought he might rest secure , but that neither tortures, nor the most liberal promises, could prevail upon the faithful brethren who knew of it, to divulge it to any one. He adds, that no man ought to commit any matter of consequence to him, who cannot truly keep a secret
Lycurgus, amongst his other valuable laws, enacted, that every man should keep a secret whatsoever was said or done. For this reason, it was usual amongst the Lacedaemonians, when they met at any feast, for the most ancient in the company to shew every brother the door, by which he entered, saying, " take heed, that not so much as one word pass out from hence, of whatsoever shall be here acted or spoken." .
The first thing, which Pythagoras inculcated upon his scholars was silence. He, therefore, for a certain time, prohibited them from speaking, in order that they might the better learn to preserve the valuable secrets, which he had to communicate, and enjoined it as a maxim that they should never speak, unless when it was necessary, thereby expressing, as his opinion that secrecy was one of the most essential virtues. Fools are known by their much speaking; and it would be desirable in masonic lodges, as well as in other societies, if some members did not expose their ignorance by the multitude of words. It is an old adage that a wise man speaks little : but in public bodies, it too often happens, that the most ignorant are the most loquacious.
When Aristotle was asked what thing was most difficult for him to perform, he answered, to be secret and silent. To this purpose St. Ambrose, one of the most eminent fathers of the Christian church, recommends the practical gift of silence as a primary virtue.
The wise king Solomon says in his Proverbs that a king ought not to drink wine, because drunkenness is an enemy to secrecy; and he adds, that a man is not worthy to