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mention them, since they have been handled by many great and eminent writers.
I would therefore propose the following methods to the consideration of such as would find out their secret faults, and make a true estimate of themselves.
In the first place, let them consider well what are the characters which they bear among
their enemies. Our friends very often flatter us, as much as our own hearts. They either do not see our faults, or conceal them from us, or soften them by their representations after such a manner that we think them too trivial to be taken notice of. An adversary, on the contrary, makes a stricter search into us, discovers every Haw and imperfection in our tempers; and though his malice may set them in too strong a light, it has generally some ground for what it advances. A friend exaggerates a man's virtues, an enemy inflames his crimes. A wise man should give a just attention to both of them, so far as they may tend to the improvement of the one, and diminution of the other. Plutarch has written an essay on the benefits which a man may receive from his enemies, and, among the good fruits of enmity, mentions this in particular, that by the reproaches which it casts upon us we see the worst side of ourselves, and open our eyes to several blemishes and defects in our lives and conversations, which we should not have observed without the help of such ill-natured monitors.
In order likewise to come at a true knowledge of ourselves, we should consider on the other hand how far we may deserve the praises and approbations which the world bestow upon us; whether the actions they celebrate proceed from laudable and worthy motives ; and how far we are really possessed of the virtues which gain us applause among
those with whom we converse. Such a reflection is absolutely necessary, if we consider how apt we are either to value or condemn ourselves by the opinions of others, and to sacrifice the report of our own hearts to the judgement of the world. In the next place, that we may not deceive ourselves in a point of so much importance, we should not lay too great a stress on any supposed virtues we possess that are of a doubtful nature: and such we may esteem all those in which multitudes of men dissent from us, who are as good and wise as ourselves. We should always act with great cautiousness and circumspection in points where it is not impossible that we may be deceived. Intemperate zeal, bigotry, and persecution for any party or opinion, how praiseworthy soever they may appear to weak men of our own principles, produce infinite calamities among mankind, and are highly criminal in their own nature: and yet how many persons eminent for piety suffer such monstrous and absurd principles of action to take root in their minds under the colour of virtues' For my own part, I must own I never yet knew any party so just and reasonable, that a man could follow it in its height and violence, and at the same time be innocent. We should likewise be very apprehensive of those actions which proceed from natural constitution, favourite passions, particular education, or whatever promotes our worldly interest or advantage. In these and the like cases, a man's judgement is easil erverted, and a wrong bias hung upon his mind. hese are the inlets of prejudice, the unguarded avenues of the mind, by which a thousand errors and secret faults find admission, without being observed or taken notice of. A wise man will suspect those actions to which he is directed by something besides reason, and always apprehend some concealed evil in every resolution that is of a disputable nature when it is conformable to his particular temper, his age, or way of life, or when it favours his pleasure or his profit. There is nothing of greater importance to us than thus diligently to sift our thoughts, and examine all these dark recesses of the mind, if we would establish our souls in such a solid and substantial virtue, as will turn to account in that great day when it must stand the test of infinite wisdom and justice. I shall conclude this essay with observing, that the two kinds of hypocrisy I have here spoken of, namely, that of deceiving the world, and that of imposing on ourselves, are touched with wonderful beauty in the hundred and thirty-ninth psalm. The folly of the first kind of hypocrisy is there set forth by reflections on God's omniscience and omnipresence, which are celebrated in as noble strains of poetry as *. other I ever met with either sacred or profane. The other kind of hypocrisy, whereby a man deceives himself, is intimated in the two last verses, where the Psalmist addresses himself to the great Searcher of hearts in that emphatical petition, “Try me, O God! and seek the ground of my heart; prove me, and examine my thoughts. Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
No. 400. MONDAY, JUNE 9, 1712.
-Latet anguis in herbâ.
VIRG. ECL. iii. 93.
There's a snake in the
It should, methinks, preserve modesty and its interests in the world, that the transgression of it always creates offence; and the
very purposes of wantonness are defeated by a carriage which has in it so much boldness, as to intimate that fear and reluctance are quite extinguished in an object which would be otherwise desirable. It was said of a wit
of the last age,
Sedley* has that prevailing gentle art
This prevailing gentle art was made
up plaisance, courtship, and artful conformity to the modesty of a woman's manners. Rusticity, broad expression, and forward obtrusion, offend those of education, and make the transgressors odious to all
* Sedley, Sir Chas., a writer of verses in the reign of Charles II. with whom he was a great favourite. The nobleman's verses quoted here, allude, it has been said, not to Sir Charles Sedley's writings, but to his personal address : for we are told that, by studying human nature, he had acquired to an eminent degree the art of making himself agreeable, particularly to the ladies.
who have merit enough to attract regard. It is in this taste that the scenery is so beautifully ordered in the description which Antony makes in the dialogue between him and Dolabella, of Cleopatra in
Her galley down the silver Cydnus row'd:
Here the imagination is warmed with all the objects presented, and yet is there nothing that luscious, or what raises any idea more loose than that of a beautiful woman set off to advantage. The like, or a more delicate and careful spirit of modesty appears in the following passage in one of Mr. Philips's pastorals.
Breathe soft, ye winds ! ye waters, gently flow!
Desire is corrected when there is a tenderness or admiration expressed which partakes the passion.
Dryden's All for Love, Act iii. sc. 1.