Charles Buck Theological Dictionary
Prudent behaviour, arising from a knowledge of and acting agreeable to the difference of things. "There are, " says Addison, No.l 225, Spect. "many more shining qualities in the mind of man, but there is none so useful as discretion: it is this, indeed, which gives a value to all the rest; which sets them at work in their proper times and places, and turns them to the advantage of the person who is possessed of them. Without it, learning is pedantry, and wit impertinence; virtue itself looks like weakness: the best parts only qualify a man to be more sprightly in errors, and active to his own prejudice. "Discretion is a very different thing from cunning: cunning is only an accomplishment of little, mean, ungenerous minds. Discretion points out the noblest ends to us, and pursues the most proper and laudable methods of attaining them; cunning has only private selfish aims, and sticks at nothing which may make them succeed.
Discretion has large and extended views, and, like a well formed eye, commands a whole horizon; cunning is a kind of short-sightedness that discovers the minutest objects which are near at hand, but not able to discern things at a distance. Discretion, the more it is discovered, gives a greater authority to the person who possesses it; cunning, when it is once detected, loses its force, and makes a man incapable of bringing about even those events which he might have done, had he passed only for a plain man. Discretion is the perfection of reason, and a guide to us in all the duties of life; cunning is a kind of instinct, that only looks out after our immediate interest and welfare. Discretion is only found in men of strong sense and good understandings; cunning is often to be met with in brutes themselves, and in persons who are but the fewest removes from them. In short, cunning is only the mimic of discretion, and may pass upon weak men, in the same manner as vivacity is often mistaken for wit, and gravity for wisdom."
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Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Discretion'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/d/discretion.html. 1802.