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shew my reader those methods by which he may arrive at a true and impartial knowledge of himself. The usual means prescribed for this purpose, are to examine ourselves by the rules which are laid down for our direction in sacred writ, and to compare our lives with the life of that person who acted up to the perfec. tion of human nature, and is the standing example, as well as the great guide and instructor, of those who receive his doctrines. Though these two heads cannot be too much insisted upon, I shall but just 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 flaw 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
* And And connects the subsequent verb has, with the preceding verbs makes, and discovers.—The whole should have run thus, “and though his malice may set them in too strong a light, has generally some grounds for what he advances.”—H.
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 bestows 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 amongst those with whom we con. verse. 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 judgments 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 praise-worthy 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.
a Report-judgment. I would rather transpose these two words, and say, "the judgment of our own hearts to the report of the world." The world reports, but the heart judges.-H.
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 judgment is easily perverted, and a wrong bias hung upon his mind. These are the inlets of prejudice, the unguarded arenues 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 par. ticular 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 won. derful beauty in the hundred 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 any 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. 403. THURSDAY, JUNE 12.
Qui mores hominum multorum vidit
Hor. Ars Poet. 142.
When I consider this great city in its several quarters and divisions, I look upon it as an aggregate of various nations, distinguished from each other by their respective customs, manners, and interests. The courts of two countries do not so much differ from one another, as the court and city in their peculiar ways of life and conversation. In short, the inhabitants of St. James's, notwithstanding they live under the same laws, and speak the same language, are a distinct people from those of Cheapside, who are likewise removed from those of the Temple on the one side, and those of Smithfield on the other, by several climates and degrees in their way of thinking and conversing together.
For this reason, when any public affair is upon the anvil, I love to hear the reflections that arise upon it in the several districts and parishes of London and Westminster, and to ramble up and down a whole day together, in order to make myself acquainted with the opinions of my ingenious countrymen. By this means I know the faces of all the principal politicians within the bills of mortality; and as every coffee-house has some particular statesman belonging to it, who is the mouth of the street where he lives, I always take care to place myself near him, in order to know his judgment on the present posture of affairs. The last progress that I made with this intention, was about three months ago, when we had a current report of the king of France's death. As I foresaw this would produce a new face of things in Europe, and many curious speculations in our British coffee-houses, I was very desirous to learn the thoughts of our most eminent politicians on that occasion.
That I might begin as near the fountain head as possible, I first of all called in at St. James's, where I found the whole outward room in a buzz of politics. The speculations were but very indifferent towards the door, but grew finer as you advanced to the upper end of the room, and were so very much improved by a knot of theorists, who sat in the inner room, within the steams of the coffee-pot, that I there heard the whole Spanish monarchy disposed of, and all the line of Bourbon provided for, in less than a quarter of an hour.
I afterwards called in at Giles's, where I saw a board of French gentlemen sitting upon the life and death of their Grand Monarque. Those among them who had espoused the Whig interest, very positively affirmed, that he departed this life about a week since, and therefore proceeded without any further delay to the release of their friends on the gallies, and to their own reestablishment; but finding they could not agree among themselves, I proceeded on my intended progress.
Upon my arrival at Jenny Man's, I saw an alert young fellow that cocked his hat upon a friend of his who entered just at the same time with myself, and accosted him after the following manner. Well Jack, the old prig is dead at last. Sharp's the word. Now or never boy. Up to the walls of Paris directly.' With several other deep reflections of the same nature.
I met with very little variation in the politics between Charing-Cross and Covent-Garden. And upon my going into Will's, I found their discourse was gone off from the death of the French king to that of Monsieur Boileau, Racine, Corneille, and several other poets, whom they regretted on this occasion, as persons who would have obliged the world with very noble elegies on the death of so great a prince, and so eminent a patron of learning.