Images de page

equally conftrain him. But thefe fcruples, if not too intricate, are of too extenfive confideration for my prefent purpose, nor are they fuch as generally occur in common life; and though cafuiftical knowledge be ufeful in proper hands, yet it ought by no means to be carelessly expofed, fince moft will afe it rather to lull than awaken their own confciences; and the threads of reafoning, on which truth is fufpended, are frequently drawn to fuch fubtilty, that common eyes cannot perceive, and common fenfibility cannot feel them.

The whole doctrine as well as practice of fecrecy, is fo perplexing and dangerous, that, next to him who is compelled to truft, I think him unhappy who is chofen to be trufted; for he is often involved in fcruples without the liberty of calling in the help of any other understanding, he is frequently drawn into guilt, under the appearance of friendship and honefty; and fometimes fubjected to fufpicion by the treachery of others, who are engaged without his knowledge in the fame fchemes, for he that has one confident has generally more, and when he is at laft betrayed, is in doubt on whom he fall fix the crime.

The rules therefore that I fhall propofe concerning fecrecy, and from which I think it not fafe to deviate, without long and exact deliberation, are-Never to folicit the knowledge of a fecret. Not willingly, nor without many limitations, to accept fuch confidence when it is offered. When a fecret is once admitted, to confider the truft as of a very high nature, important as fociety, and facred as truth, and therefore not to be violated for any incidental convenience, or flight appearance of contrary fitnefs.

On Truth and Sincerity.

[Spect. No 352.]


RUTH and reality have all
appearance and many more.
thing be good for any thing, I am fure
ser for why does any man diffemble, or feem to be

the advantages of
If the fhew of any
fincerity is bet-


that which he is not, but because he thinks it good to have fuch a quality as he pretends to ? for to counterfeit and diffemble, is to put on the appearance of fome real excellency. Now the best way in the world for a man to feem to be any thing, is really to be what he would feem to be. Befides that it is many times as troublesome to make good the pretence of a good quality, as to have it; and if a man have it not, it is ten to one but he is difcovered to want it, and then all his pains and labour to feem to have it is loft. There is fomething unnatural in painting, which a fkilful eye will eafily difcern from native beauty and complexion.

It is hard to perfonate and act a part long; for where truth is not at the bottom, nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will peep out and betray herself one time or other. Therefore if any man think it convenient to feem good, let him be fo indeed, and then his goodness will appear to every body's fatisfaction; fo that upon all accounts fincerity is true wifdom. Particularly as to the affairs of this world, integrity hath many advantages over all the fine and artificial ways of diffimulation and deceit; it is much the plainer and eafier, much the fafer and more fecure way of dealing in the world; it has lefs of trouble and difficulty, of entanglement and perplexity, of danger and hazard in it; it is the shortest and nearest way to our end, carrying us thither in a ftraight line, and will hold out-and last longeft. The arts of deceit and cunning do continually grow weaker and lefs effectual and ferviceable to them that use them; whereas integrity gains strength by ufe, and the more and longer any man practifeth it, the greater fervice it does him, by confirming his reputation, and encouraging thofe with whom he hath to do, to repofe the greatest truft and confidence in him, which is an unfpeakable advantage in the bufinefs and

affairs of lite.

Truth is always confiftent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and fits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware; whereas a lie is troublefome, and fets a man's invention upon the rack, and one trick needs a great H 3


many more to make it good. It is like building upon a falfe foundation, which continually ftands in need of props to fhore it up, and proves at laft more chargeable than to have raifed a fubftantial building at firft upon a true and folid foundation; for fincerity is firm and subftantial, and there is nothing hollow or unfound in it, and because it is plain and open, fears no difcovery ; of which the crafty man is always in danger, and when he thinks he walks in the dark, all his pretences are fo tranfparent that he that runs may read them; he is the lait man that finds himfelf to be found out, and whil be takes it for granted that he makes fools of others, he renders himfelf ridiculous.

Add to all this, that fincerity is the most compendicus wifdom, and an excellent inftrument for the speedy difpatch of bufinefs; it creates confidence in those we have to deal with, faves the labour of many inquiries, and brings things to an iffue in few words; it is like travelling in a plain beaten road, which commonly brings a man fooner to his journey's end than bye-ways, in which men often lofe themfelves. In a word, whatfoever conveniencies may be thought to be in falfhood and diffimulation, it is foon over, but the inconvenience of it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlafting jealoufy and fufpicion, fo that he is not believed when he speaks truth, nor trufted perhaps when he means honeftly. When a man has once forfeited the reputation of his integrity, he is fet faft, and nothing will then ferve his turn, neither truth nor falfhood.

And I have often thought that God hath in his great wifdom hid from men of falfe and difhoneft minds the wonderful advantages of truth and integrity, to the profperity even of our worldly affairs; thele men are so blinded by their covetoufnefs and ambition, that they cannot look beyond a prefent advantage, nor forbear to feize upon it, though by ways never fo indirect; they cannot fee fo far as to the remote confequences of a fteady integrity, and the vaft benefit and advantages which it will bring a man at laft. Were but this fort of men wife and clear-fighted enough to difcern this, they would be honeft out of very knavery, not out of any

love to honefty and virtue, but with a crafty defign to promote and advance more effectually their own interefts; and therefore the juftice of the divine providence hath hid this trueft point of wisdom from their eyes, that bad men might not be upon equal terms with the juft and upright, and serve their own wicked defigns by honest and lawful means.

Indeed, if a man were only to deal in the world for a day, and should never have occafion to converse more with mankind, never more need their good opinion or good word, it were then no great matter (peaking as to the concernments of this world) if a man spent his reputation all at once, and ventured it at one throw : but if he be to continue in the world, and would have the advantage of converfation whilst he is in it, let him make use of truth and fincerity in all his words and actions; for nothing but this will last and hold out to the end all other arts will fail, but truth and integrity will carry a man through, and bear him out to the laft.

Rules for the Knowledge of one's felf. [Spe&t. N°. 399.]


YPOCRISY at the fafhionable end of the town is very different from hypocrify in the city. The modifh hypocrite endeavours to appear more vićious than he really is, the other kind of hypo ritemore virtuous. The former is afraid of every thing that has the fhew of religion in it, and would be thought engaged in many criminal gallantries and amours which he is not guilty of. The latter affumes a face of fanctity, and covers a multitude of vices under a feeming religious deportment.

But there is another kind of hypocrify, which differs from both these, and which I intend to make the subject of this paper: I mean that hypocrify, by which a man does not only deceive the world, but very often impofes on himself; that hypocrify which conceals his own heart from him, and makes him believe he is more virtuous than he really is, and either not attend to his H.4. vices,>

vices, or mistake even his vices for virtues. It is this fatal hypocrify and felf-deceit which is taken notice of in thefe words, Who can understand his errors? cleanfe thou me from fecret faults.

If the open profeffors of impiety deferve the utmost application and endeavours of moral writers, to recover them from vice and folly, how much more may thofe lay a claim to their care and compaffion, who are walking in the paths of death, while they fancy themfelves engaged in a course of virtue! I fhall endeavour therefore to lay down fome rules for the difcovery of thofe vices that lurk in the fecret corners of the foul; and to fhew my reader thofe methods, by which he may arrive at a true and impartial knowledge of himself. The ufual means prefcribed for this purpofe, are to examine ourselves by the rules which are laid down for our direction in facred writ, and to compare our lives with the life of that perfon who acted up to the perfection of human nature, and is the ftanding example, as well as the great guide and inftructor, of thofe who receive his doctrines. Though thefe two heads cannot be too much infifted upon, I fhall but juft mention them, fince they have been handled by many great and emi

nent writers.

I would therefore propofe the following methods to the confideration of fuch as would find out their secret faults, and make a true estimate of themselves.

In the first place, let them confider 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 fee our faults, or conceal them from us, or foften them by their reprefentations, in fuch a manner, that we think them too trivial to be taken notice of. An adverfary, on the contrary, makes a ftricter fearch into us, difcovers every flaw and imperfection in our tempers; and, though his malice may fet them in too ftrong a light, it has generally fome ground for what it advances. A friend exaggerates a man's virtues, an enemy in flames his crimes. A wife man fhould give a juft attention to both of them, fo far as they may tend to the improvement of the one, and the

« PrécédentContinuer »