« AnteriorContinuar »
and watch himself carefully, that he do not contradict his own pretensions ; for he acts an unnatural part, and therefore must put a continual force and restraint upon himself. Whereas he that acts sincerely hath the easiest task in the world ; because he follows nature, and so is put to no trouble and care about his words and actions; he needs not invent any pretences beforehand, nor make excuses afterwards, for any thing he hath said or done.
But insincerity is very troublesome to manage; a hypocrite hath so many things to attend to, as make his life a very perplexed and intricate thing. A liar hath need of a good memory, lest he contradict at one time what he said at another ; but truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips ; whereas a lie is troublesome, and needs a great many more to make it good.
Add to all this, that Sincerity is the most compendious wisdom, and an excellent instrument for the speedy dispatch of business. It creates confidence in those we have to deal with, saves the labour of many inquiries, and brings things to an issue in few words. It is like travelling in a plain beaten road, which commonly brings a man sooner to his journey's end, than bye-ways , in which men often lose themselves. In a word, whatsoever convenience may be thought to be in falsehood and dissimulation, it is soon over; but the inconvenience of it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlasting jealousy and suspicion, so that he is not believed when he speaks truth, nor trusted when perhaps he means honestly. When a man hath ance forfeited the reputation of his integrity, nothing will then serve his turn, neither truth nor falsehood.
Indeed, if a man were only to deal in the world for a day, and should never have occasion to converse more with mankind, never more need their good opinion or good word, it were then no great matter ( as far as respects the affairs of this world ) if he 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 reputation whilst he is in it, let him make use of truth and since- rity in all his words and actions, for nothing but this will hold out to the end. All other arts may fail, but truth and integrity will carry a man through, and bear him out to the last.
. TILLOTSON. CHA P. I V.
On Honour. EVERY principal that is a motive to good actions ought to be encouraged, since men are of so different a make, that the same principle does not work equally upon all minds. What some men are prompted to by conscience, duty, or religion, which are only different names for the same thing , others are prompted to by honour.
The sense of Honour is of so fine and delicate a nature, that it is only to be met with in prinds which are naturally noble, or in such as have been cultivated by great examples, or a refined education. This essay therefore is chiefly designed for those who by means of any of these advantages are, or ought to be, actuated by this glorious principle.
But as nothing is more pernicious than a priu
ciple of action, when it is misunderstood, I shall consider Honour with respect to three sorts of men. First of all, with regard to those who have a right notion of it. Secondly, with regard to those who have a mistaken notion of it. And, thirdly, with regard to those who treat it as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule.
In the first place true Honour, though it be a different principle from religion, is that which produces the same effects. The lines of action, Though drawn from different parts, terminate in the same point. Religion embraces virtue, as it is enjoined by the laws of God; Honour, as it is graceful and ornamental to human nature. The religious man fears, the man of Honour scorns to do an ill action. The latter considers vice as something that is beneath him, the other as something that is offensive to the Divine Being.
The one as what is unbeconing, the other as what is forbidden. 'Thus Seneca speaks in the natural and genuine language of a man of honour, when he declares , that were there no God to see or punish vice, he would not commit it, because it is of so mean, so base, and so vile a nature.
I shall conclude this head with the description of honour in the parting of young Juba. Honour's a sacred tie, the law of kings, The noble mind's distinguishing perfection, That aids and strengthens virtue when it meets her, And imitates her actions where she is not. It ought not to be sported with.
Cato. In the second place, we are to consider those who have mistaken notions of Honour. And these are such as establish any thing to themselves for a point of honour which is contrary either to the laws of God or of their country ; who think it more honourable to revenge than to forgive an injury; who make no scruple of telling a lie, but would put any man to death that accuses them of it; who are more careful to guard their reputation by their courage than by their virtue. True fortitude is indeed so becoming in human nature, that he who wants it scarce deserves the name of a man; but we find several who so much abuse this notion, that they place the whole idea of honour in a kind of brutal courage; by which means we have had many among us who have called themselves men of honour, who would have been a disgrace to a gibbet. In a word, the man who sacrifices any duty of a reasonable creature to a prevailing mode or fashion, who looks upon any thing as honourable that is dipleasing to his Maker, or destructive to society, who thinks himself obliged by this principle to the practice of some virtues and not of others, is by no means to be reckoned among true men of Honour.
Timogenes was a lively instance of one actuaded by false Honour. Timogenes would smile at a man's jest who ridiculed his Maker , and at the same time run a man through the body that spoke ill of his friend. Timogenes would have scorned to have betrayed a secret that was intrusted with him, though the fate of his country depended upon the discovery of it. 'Timogenes took away the life of a young fellow in a duel, for having spoke ill of Belinda , a lady whom he himself had seduced in her youth, and betrayed into want and ignominy. To close his character, Timogenes, after having ruined several poor tradesmen's families who had trusted him, sold his estate to satisfy his creditors; but, like a
man of Honour , disposed of all the money he could make of it, in the paying of his playdebts, or, to speak in his own language, his debts of Honour.
In the third place we are to consider those persons, who treat this principle as chimerical, and turn it into ridicule. Men who are professedly of no Honour, are of a more profligate and abandoned nature than even those who are actuated by false notions of it, as there is more hope of a heretic than of an atheist. These sons of infamy consider honour with old Syphax, in the play before mentioned, as a fine imaginary notion that leads astray young unexperienced men, and draws them into real mischiefs, while they are engaged in the pursuits of a shadow.
These are generally persons who, in Shakespear's phrase, « are worn and hackneyed in the » ways of men; » whose imaginations are grown callous, and have lost all those delicate sentiments which are natural to minds that are innocent and undepraved. Such old battered miscreants ridicule every thing as romantic that comes in competition with their present interest, and treat those persons as visionaries, who dare stand up in a corrupt age, for what has not its immediate reward joined to it. The talents, interest, or experience of such men , make theni very often useful in all parties, and at all times. But whatever wealth and dignities they may arrive at, they ought to consider, that every one stands as a blot in the annals of his country, who arrives at the temple of honour by any other way than through that of virtue.