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of merit, to be found unguarded among people of such principles.
Having established in our thoughts a kind of competition with those around us, and rivalship for respect and credit, we are apt to flatter ourselves, that we are the better for their shame, and the more respected when they are ill thought of; we hope to appropriate to ourselves, the honour which others lose, and inherit the applauses they possess no longer.
But we are much mistaken in our conclusions. For, not to urge the danger of reprisals, which may be made upon us with equal success, and perhaps more justice; this very temper and practice, if our enemies have nothing more to allege against us, is of itself one of the heaviest imputations: and while we put it in their power to say so much ill of us truly, we pursue the very worst measures in the
world for a good character, whether to deferve or gain it.
Nor is this only one great blemish in our reputation, and an inducement to our enemies to look out for more; but it is also a sure symptom, that they will find them. A disposition to calumny is too bad a thing, to be the only thing in us that is bad: a vice of that distinction, cannot be without a large retinue.
At least, there will hardly be found in it's company, any quality highly good and excellent. Eminent merit can shine without a foil; it needs no such helps, and condescends not to make use of them; but it is well pleased with whatever is well done, and ready and delighted to do justice to the excellencies of others.
A mind truly great, recommends and brings forward what is deserving of encouragement; and being rich in praise, VOL. II.
can bestow it liberally, without any
fear of impoverishment.
But, besides the mere desire of doing mischief, which is malice; or the desire of doing it to those above us, which is envy; or to those who have offended us, which is revenge ; and besides also the more general endeavour to depress others in order to raise ourselves the higher, which is the mistaken effort of a very mean ambition; there is yet another principle, which is apt to lead us into the same offence; and becomes one cause of that calumny, which springs from so many sources.
We have all a desire to be agreeable to our companions; and finding, that conversation is never fo well relished, as when seasoned wich Nander; what can we do, but conform to the taste of those we live with, and be cenforious out of civility?
But, perhaps the fault may not be wholly theirs, with whom we converse. Our talent, it may be, lies the same way with their taste: we have a genius, it is poflible, turned for satyr, above any other species of composition. In that case, it will be no wonder, if we appear to less advantage upon a different topic; and that our panegyricks, growing in an unkindly soil, are found distasteful, and unsavoury.
But, be that as it may; we are still by no means innocent. If the fault be in others, we ought not to partake in it; if in ourselves, we may correct it. Should we think it reasonable, were the case our own, to be abused merely for sport, and belied only in order to be laughed at? The jest is lost in the injustice and crų. elty: it is a serious matter, at least on the side of the sufferer.
and made the instruments of conveying a falsehood, and doing an injury. The evil spreads fast and is multiplied, and probably increased and aggravated in it's
course, and there is no end of the conProv.xxvi. fusion and mischief. As a madman who
casteth firebrands, arrows and death: so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and faith, am not 1 in sport?
Praise, even when it is deserved, may be conferred indiscreetly; but cenfure is surrounded with peril on every side: the least impropriety makes it unpardonable. You are not allowed to be mistaken, when you take upon you to find fault. Time, place, personi, occasion, company, and so many circumstances must meer together, that the proper opportunity to discommend, if we will but wait for it, cannot occur often. Censure is in feason so very seldom, that it may be compared to that bitter plant, which hardly comes to it's maturity in the life of a