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sign of a noble spirit. For that love of praise can never be criminal that excites and enables a man to do a great deal more good than he could do without it. And perhaps there never was a fine genius or a noble spirit, that rose above the common level, and distinguished itself by high attainments in what is truly excellent, but was secretly, and perhaps insensibly, prompted by the impulse of this passion.
But, on the contrary, if a man's views centre only in the applause of others, whether it be deserved or not ; if he pants after popularity and fame, not regarding how he comes by it; if his passion for praise urge him to stretch himself beyond the line of his capacity, and to attempt things to which he is unequal ; to condescend to mean arts and low dissimulation for the sake of a name ; and in a sinister, indirect way, sue hard for a little incense, not caring from whom he receives it, his ambition then becomes vanity. And if it excite a man to wicked attempts, make him willing to sacrifice the esteem of all wise and good men to the acclamations of a mob.; to overleap the bounds of decency and truth, and break through the obligations of honour and virtue, it is then not only vanity but vice; and vice the most destructive to the peace and happiness of human society, and which of all others hath made the greatest havock and devastation among men.
What an instance have we here of the wide difference between common opinion and truth !
Thata vice so big with mischief and misery should be mistaken for a virtues! And that they who have been most infamous for it should be crowned with laurelšyeven by those who have been ruined by it; and have those laurels perpetuated by the common consent of men through after ages! Seneca's judgment of Alexander is certainly more agreeable to truth than the come mon opinion ; who called him a publick cutthroat rather than a hero ,; and who, in seeking only to be a terrour to mankind, arose to no greater an excellence than what belonged to the most hurtful and hatefubanimals on earth.
- Certain it is, that these false heroes, who seek their glory from the destruction of their own species, are of all menmost ignorant of thema selves , and by this owicked ambition entail in famy and oursés supon their name, instead of that immortal glory they pursuedor. According to the prophet's words> Woe to him who coveteth an evil covetousness to his house, that he may set his nest on high; that he may be delivered from the power of evil. Thou hast consulted shame to thine house, by cutting off many people and bhastri sinned against thy soul.toriji i ontny but TIJonod to enter i
Nowino min can truly know himself till lie be acquainted with this, which is so often the secret and unperceived spring of his actions, and observes how far rit governs him in his conc versation and conduct, Virtue and real excel
Hab. i. 9, 10. JOGOO Ondmollit:
lence will rise to view, though they be not mounted on the wings of ambition, which, by soaring too high, procures but a more fatal fali.
And to correct the irregularity and extravagance of this passion, let us but reflect how airy and unsubstantial a pleasure the highest gratifications of it afford ; how many cruel mortifications he exposes us to, by awakening the envy of others ; to what meanness it often makes us submit; how frequently it loseth its end by pursuing it with too much ardour ; and how much more solid pleasure the approbation of conscience will yield, than the acclamations of ignorant and mistaken men, who, judging by externals only, cannot know our true character; and whose commendations a wise man would rather despise than court. Examine but the size of people's sense, and the condition of their understandings, and you will never be fond of popularity, nor afraid of censure ; nor solicitous what judgment they may form of you, who know not how to judge rightly of themselves.'
What kind of knowledge we are already furnished with,
and what degree of esteem we set upon it.
XII. A MAN can never rightly know himself, unless he examines into his
knowledge of other things.
We must consider then the knowledge we have ; and whether we do not set too high a price upon it, and too great a value upon ourselves on the account of it ; of what real use it is to us, and what effect it has upon us; whether it does not make us too stiff, unsociable, and assuming ; testy and supercilious, and ready to despise others for their supposed ignorance. If so, our knowledge, be it what it will, does us more harin than good. We were better without it ; ignorance itself would not render us so ridiculous. Such a temper with all our knowledge, shows that we know not ourselves.
A man is certainly proud of that knowledge he despises others for the want of.
How common is it for some men to be fond of appearing to know more than they do, and of seeming to be thought men of knowledge ? To which end they exhaust their fund almost in all companies, to outshine the rest. So that in two or three conversations they are drawn dry, and you see to the bottom of them much
sooner than you could at first imagine. And even that torrent of learning, which they pour
out upon you at first so unmercifully, rather - confounds than satisfies you ; their visible aim
is not to inform your judgment, but to display their own ; you have many things to query and except against, but their loquacity gives you no room ; and their good sense, set off to so much advantage, strikes a modest man dumb : If you insist upon your right to examine, they retreat either in confusion or equivocation; and, like the scuttle fish, throw a large quantity of ink behind them, that you may not see where to pursue. Whence this foible fiows is obvious enough. Self knowledge would soon correct it.
But as some ignorantly affect to be more knowing, so others vainly affect to be more ignorant than they are ; who, to show they have greater insight and penetration than other men, insist upon the absolute uncertainty of science; will dispute even first principles ; grant nothing as certain, and so run into downright Pyrrhonism ; the too common effect of abstracted debates excessively refined.
Every one is apt to set the greatest value upon that kind of knowledge, in which he imagines he himself most excels; and to undervalue all other in comparison of it.
There wants some certain rule then, by which some men's knowledge is to be - tried, and the value of it estimated. And let it be this That is the