[blocks in formation]

of chearfulness, in the consideration of his own nature, and of that Being on whom he has a dependence. If he looks into himself, he cannot but rejoice in that existence which is so lately bestowed upon him, and which, after millions of ages, will be still new, and still in its beginning. How many self-congratulations naturally arise in the mind, when it reflects on this its entrance into eternity, when it takes a view of those improveable faculties, which in a few years, and even at his first setting

out, have made so considerable a progress, and which will be 10 still receiving an increase of perfection, and consequently an

increase of happiness ? The consciousness of such a being spreads a perpetual diffusion of joy through the soul of a virtuous man, and makes him look upon himself every moment as more happy than he knows how to conceive.

The second source of chearfulness to a good mind, is its consideration of that Being on whom we have our dependence, and in whom, though we behold him as yet but in the first faint discoveries of his perfections, we see every thing that we

can imagine as great, glorious, or amiable. We find ourselves 20 every where upheld by his goodness, and surrounded with an

immensity of love and mercy. In short, we depend upon a Being, whose power qualifies him to make us happy by an infinity of means, whose goodness and truth engage him to make those happy who desire it of him, and whose unchangeableness will secure us in this happiness to all eternity.

Such considerations, which every one should perpetually cherish in his thoughts, will banish from us all that secret heaviness of heart which unthinking men are subject to when they lie under

no real affliction, all that anguish which we may feel from any 30 evil that actually oppresses us, to which I may likewise add those

little cracklings of mirth and folly, that are apter to betray virtue than support it; and establish in us such an even and chearful temper, as makes us pleasing to ourselves, to those with whom we converse, and to him whom we were made to please.-1.

No. 458.

me of a

On True and False Shame; the latter makes the English repress any outward show of religion ; cause of this explained.

'Αιδώς ουκ αγαθή.-HEs.

Pudor malus.-HOR,
I could not but smile at the account that was yesterday given

modest young gentleman, who, being invited to an entertainment, though he was not used to drink, had not the confidence to refuse his glass in his turn, when on a sudden he grew so flustered that he took all the talk of the table into his own

hands, abused every one of the company, and flung a bottle at the gentleman who treated him. This has given me occasion to reflect upon the ill effects of a vicious modesty, and

to remember the saying of Brutus, as it is quoted by Plutarch, 10 that the person has had but an ill education who has not been taught to deny any thing.

This false kind of modesty has, perhaps, betrayed both sexes into as many vices as the most abandoned impudence, and is the more inexcusable to reason, because it acts to gratify others rather than itself, and is punished with a kind of remorse, not only, like other vicious habits, when the crime is over, but even at the very time that it is committed.

Nothing is more amiable than true modesty, and nothing is more contemptible than the false. The one guards virtue, the 20 other betrays it. True modesty is ashamed to do any thing

that is repugnant to the rules of right reason; false modesty is ashamed to do any thing that is opposite to the humour of the company. True modesty avoids every thing that is criminal

, false modesty every thing that is unfashionable. The latter is only a general undetermined instinct; the former is that instinct, limited and circumscribed by the rules of prudence and religion.

We may conclude that modesty to be false and vicious, which engages a man to do any thing that is ill or indiscreet, or 30 which restrains him from doing any thing that is of a contrary

nature. How many men, in the common concerns of life, lend sums of money which they are not able to spare, are bound for persons whom they have but little friendship for, give recommendatory characters of men whom they are not acquainted with, bestow places on those whom they do not esteem, live


193 in such a manner as themselves do not approve, and all this merely because they have not the confidence to resist solicitation, importunity, or example ?

Nor does this false modesty expose us only to such actions as are indiscreet, but very often to such as are highly criminal. When Xenophanes was called timorous because he would not venture his money in a game at dice, 'I confess,' said he, “that I am exceeding timorous, for I dare not do any ill thing. On

the contrary, a man of vicious modesty complies with every thing, 10 and is only fearful of doing what may look singular in the

company where he is engaged. He falls in with the torrent, and lets himself go to every action or discourse, however unjustifiable in itself, so it be in vogue among the present party. This, though one of the most common, is one of the most ridiculous dispositions in human nature, that men should not be ashamed of speaking or acting in a dissolute or irrational manner, but that one who is in their company should be ashamed of governing himself by the principles of reason and virtue.

In the second place, we may consider false modesty as it re20 strains a man from doing what is good and laudable.

My reader's own thoughts will suggest to him many instances and examples under this head. I shall only dwell upon one reflexion, which I cannot make without a secret concern. We have in England a particular bashfulness in every thing that regards religion. A well-bred man is obliged to conceal any serious sentiment of this nature, and very often to appear a greater libertine than he really is, that he may keep himself in countenance among the men of mode. Our excess of modesty makes

us shame-faced in all the exercises of piety and devotion. This 30 humour prevails upon us daily; insomuch that at many well bred

tables the master of the house is so modest a man, that he has not the confidence to say a grace at his own table: a custom which is not only practised by all the nations about us, but was never omitted by the heathens themselves. English gentlemen, who travel into Roman Catholic countries, are not a little surprised to meet with people of the best quality kneeling in their churches, and engaged in their private devotions, though it be not at the hours of public worship. An officer of the army,

or a man of wit and pleasure, in those countries, would be afraid 40 of passing not only for an irreligious, but an ill-bred man, should

[ocr errors]

he be seen to go to bed, or sit down at table, without offering up his devotions on such occasions. The same show of religion appears in all the foreign reformed churches, and enters so much into their conversation, that an Englishman is apt to term them hypocritical and precise.

This little appearance of a religious deportment in our nation may proceed in some measure from that modesty which is natural to us; but the great occasion of it is certainly this; those

swarms of sectaries that over-ran the nation in the time of the 10 Great Rebellion carried their hypocrisy so high, that they had

converted our whole language into a jargon of enthusiasm, insomuch that upon the Restoration men thought they could not recede too far from the behaviour and practice of those persons, who had made religion a cloke to so many villainies. This led them into the other extreme; every appearance of devotion was looked upon as puritanical; and falling into the hands of the ridiculers who flourished in that reign, and attacked every thing that was serious, it has ever since been out of countenance among

us. By this means we are gradually fallen into that vicious 20 modesty which has in some measure worn out from among us

the appearance of Christianity in ordinary life and conversation, and which distinguishes us from all our neighbours.

Hypocrisy cannot indeed be too much detested, but at the same time is to be preferred to open impiety. They are both equally destructive to the person who is possessed with them: but, in regard to others, hypocrisy is not so pernicious as barefaced irreligion. The due mean to be observed is, to be sincerely virtuous, and at the same time to let the world see we are

I do not know a more dreadful menace in the holy writings, 30 than that which is pronounced against those who have this

perverted modesty, to be ashamed before men in a particular of such unspeakable importance.-C.

[ocr errors]

No. 459. Religion and morality; the pre-eminence of the latter ; against persecution. Quicquid dignum sapiente bonoque est.

Hor. Epist. i. 4. 5. Religion may be considered under two general heads. The first comprehends what we are to believe, the other what we

[blocks in formation]

are to practise. By those things which we are to believe, I mean whatever is revealed to us in the holy writings, and which we could not have obtained the knowledge of by the light of nature; by the things which we are to practise, I mean all those duties to which we are directed by reason or natural religion. The first of these I shall distinguish by the name of faith, the second by that of morality.

If we look into the more serious part of mankind, we find many who lay so great a stress upon faith, that they neglect 10 morality; and many who build so much upon morality, that they

do not pay a due regard to faith. The perfect man should be defective in neither of these particulars, as will be evident to those who consider the benefits which arise from each of them, and which I shall make the subject of this day's paper.

Notwithstanding this general division of Christian duty into morality and faith, and that they have both their peculiar excellencies, the first has the pre-eminence in several respects.

First, Because the greatest part of morality (as I have stated the notion of it) is of a fixed eternal nature, and will endure 20 when faith shall fail, and be lost in conviction.

Secondly, Because a person may be qualified to do greater good to mankind, and become more beneficial to the world, by morality without faith, than by faith without morality.

Thirdly, Because morality gives a greater perfection to human nature, by quieting the mind, moderating the passions, and advancing the happiness of every man in his private capacity.

Fourthly, Because the rule of morality is much more certain than that of faith, all the civilized nations of the world agreeing in the great points of morality, as much as they differ in those

30 of faith.

Fifthly, Because infidelity is not of so malignant a nature as immorality; or, to put the same reason in another light, because it is generally owned, there may be salvation for a virtuous infidel, (particularly in the case of invincible ignorance), but none for a vicious believer.

Sixthly, Because faith seems to draw its principal, if not all its excellency, from the influence it has upon morality; as we

shall see more at large, if we consider wherein consists the 40 excellency of faith, or the belief of revealed religion; and this

I think is,

« ForrigeFortsett »