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of merit, to be found unguarded among people of fuch principles.
Having established in our Own 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 fhame, and the more respected when they are, ill thought of; we hope to appropriate to ourselves, the honour which others lofe, and inherit the applauses they poffefs no longer.
But we are much mistaken in our conclufions. For, not to urge the danger of reprisals, which may be made upon us with equal fuccefs, 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
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 fure fymptom, that they will find them. A difpofition to calumny is too bad a thing, to be the only thing in us that is bad: a vice of that diftinction, 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 fuch 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 deferving of encouragement; and being rich in praise, VOL. II. S
can bestow it liberally, without any fear of impoverishment.
But, befides the mere defire of doing mischief, which is malice; or the defire of doing it to those above us, which is envy; or to those who have offended us, which is revenge; and befides alfo the more general endeavour to deprefs 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 fame offence; and becomes one cause of that calumny, which springs from fo many fources.
We have all a defire to be agreeable to our companions; and finding, that converfation is never fo well relished, as when feafoned with flander; 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 fame way with their tafte: we have a genius, it is poffible, turned for fatyr, above any other fpecies of compofition. In that case, it will be no wonder, if we appear to lefs advantage upon a different topic; and that our panegyricks, growing in an unkindly foil, are found distasteful, and unfavoury.
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 jeft is loft in the injustice and cruelty it is a serious matter, at least on the fide of the fufferer.
The hearers too are impofed upon,
and made the inftruments of conveying a falsehood, and doing an injury. The evil spreads faft and is multiplied, and probably increased and aggravated in it's courfe; and there is no end of the conProv.xxvi. fufion and mischief. As a madman who 18, 19. cafteth firebrands, arrows and death: so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and faith, am not 1 in fport?
Praise, even when it is deserved, may be conferred indifcreetly; but cenfure is furrounded with peril on every fide: the leaft impropriety makes it unpardonable. You are not allowed to be mistaken, when you take upon you to find fault. Time, place, perfon, occafion, company, and fo many circumftances must meet together, that the proper opportunity to difcommend, if we will but wait for it, cannot occur often. Cenfure is in feafon fo very feldom, that it may be compared to that bitter plant, which hardly comes to it's maturity in the life of a man,