Page images
PDF
EPUB

how can we tell any distance, plase your honour, but from our own little cabins ? Nobody but the schoolmaster knows that, plase your honour.'”.

Some people, from a timidity of speaking what is incorrect, seem as if they feared to speak at all. This is scrupulosity. It operates in language as well as in actions. It is a disadvantage to the possessor; and it is unpleasing, or, sometimes, disgusting to the listener. To a plain and simple question, after a long delay, the monosyllable 66 Well,” or “ Perhaps," is introduced; and then something else trails out, as the wounded snake 6 drags its slow length along.” A person should speak boldly and smartly, but modestly. It is not supposed by the listener that the speaker must necessarily communicate truth; and the person who answers a question must not fancy that he can always impart the words of wisdom ; consequently there will be sometimes correctness, and at other times error : but the speaker should give his opinion with a certain degree of deference, and without that affectation and cant which are generally the symptoms of an intention to deceive, rather than a wish to inform.

The practice of answering one question by asking another arises from a similar cause; namely, a scrupulosity or timidity of speaking without a great deal of thinking. If the distance to a certain place be asked, the reply will be, “ Where did you come from ?” Or, in answer to a question, it will be enquired, “ Dost thou wish to know ?All this is impertinent and foolish.

Simplicity and truth are usually connected. The former is the unsophisticated representation of things, the latter is the absence of deception. If the language which is employed by a speaker is agreeable with his feelings, it is termed sincere; if consistent with reason, it is termed common sense. Sincerity raises no declamatory professions; it boasts no gaudy abilities; it uses no high-sounding language: but its actions are simple and expressive; its speech is plain and forcible; its effects are pleasing and convincing. Sincerity being produced by actual feeling, and the lips being accustomed to speak out of the fulness of the heart, a man will not often fail in communicating his thoughts and feelings to others. When Lyncestes had been accused of a conspiracy against Alexander, he was brought before the army to make his defence. But he had prepared a speech, which he had committed to memory; and when he was at fault in some part of it, the soldiers fancied he had been relating a feigned story, and they killed him.

CHAP. X.

ON LIBERALITY AND BIGOTRY.

LIBERALITY is a feeling of benevolence towards our fellow-creatures. We speak as favourabls of them as possible, and we endeavour to think of them charitably. All this is consistent with correctness of judgment, with independence, and with the exercise of justice. For if, in any case, we conceive a man to be worthy and honest, who is evidently unprincipled, we are not liberal, but credulous. There are three ways in which human merit may be estimated : — by comparing one person with another ; by judging the conduct of men in reference to human laws and customs; and by estimating the actions of human beings by the requirements of the Almighty. By the last, all men must be condemned. If, then, we are necessarily faulty, and yet are tolerably well pleased with ourselves, let us, for the sake of consistency and justice, cherish a favourable opinion of others. If we discover that some men are worse than we are, let us pity rather than despise them. Let us not encourage hatred or revenge, otherwise we shall show that, although our fellow-creatures have deviated from the path of propriety, we have made ourselves equally faulty by fostering these hateful dispositions. Is it reasonable that the opposition

VOL. II.

to evil should be maintained by evil ? And yet it is too frequently the case. This, however, would seem to show that the object of the complainant, in many instances, is not so much an interest for the welfare of others as an inclination to hunt after impropriety for the sake of gratifying censoriousness.

In the pursuit of philosophy, truth should be the principal object, - not envy or ambition. In political matters, patriotism should be the guide, – not party spirit and rancorous opposition. In religion, we should be stimulated by the principle of promoting “peace on earth, and good-will towards men.” This is the character which was connected with Christianity by the Divine Founder : he did not introduce bigotry and cruelty. In the pursuit of wealth, we should be neither unfair nor monopolising; but we should endeavour to procure a comfortable maintenance, and allow others to do the same. If we practise these things we shall be . liberal; if not, we shall merit the character of selfish and bigoted persons.

When a low principle of private interest influences the actions of a man, he is usually displeased with his own possessions, and he generally envies the advantages of others. Dr. Jeremy Taylor observes of this envious disposition : — “ It eats the flesh, and dries up the marrow, and makes hollow eyes, lean cheeks, and a pale face.” But a liberal feeling produces contentment, good health, and cheerfulness.

A bigoted man will be obstinately attached to his own system, and he will be prejudiced against

the opinions of others. Bigotry occasions stiffness, obstinacy, uncharitableness, falsehood, malice, and cruelty. With such a train of evils, — having nothing that is lovely or of good report, - is it not natural that every one should condemn it? But a man will sometimes reject it in his theory, while he will support it in his practice. No person countenances bigotry in an opponent; and yet, in his violent exclamations against the belief and conduct of another, he may exhibit the effects of bigotry in himself. It is as if every one hated a grey or a black eye, and yet most men possessed it; but as every person could only behold the defect of another, so he would ridicule what he saw, without considering that he himself possessed a similar blemish.

Ill-will and harshness arise from a discord of opinions ;

“ 'Tis with our judgments as our watches; none

Go just alike, yet each believes his own."

However, we should remember that a variation is unavoidable, and this should occasion a feeling of liberality. If one man differs from another, and thinks himself justifiable in so doing, why should he condemn another for differing from him? The strongest degree of confidence is no proof of our correctness; for many have been exceedingly positive, and greatly mistaken. Locke observes, 6 Crooked things are as stiff and inflexible as straight; and men may be as positive in error as in truth.” Obstinacy implies a stiff and unreasonable main

« PreviousContinue »