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No. 399 [from The Spectator]
by [?]

In the next Place, that we may not deceive our selves in a Point of so much Importance, we should not lay too great a Stress on any supposed Virtues we possess that are of a doubtful Nature: And such we may esteem all those in which Multitudes of Men dissent from us, who are as good and wise as our selves. We should always act with great Cautiousness and Circumspection in Points, where it is not impossible that we may be deceived. Intemperate Zeal, Bigotry and Persecution for any Party or Opinion, how praiseworthy soever they may appear to weak Men of our own Principles, produce infinite Calamities among Mankind, and are highly Criminal in their own Nature; and yet how many Persons eminent for Piety suffer such monstrous and absurd Principles of Action to take Root in their Minds under the Colour of Virtues? For my own Part, I must own I never yet knew any Party so just and reasonable, that a Man could follow it in its Height and Violence, and at the same time be innocent.

We should likewise be very apprehensive of those Actions which proceed from natural Constitution, favourite Passions, particular Education, or whatever promotes our worldly Interest or Advantage. In these and the like Cases, a Man’s Judgment is easily perverted, and a wrong Bias hung upon his Mind. These are the Inlets of Prejudice, the unguarded Avenues of the Mind, by which a thousand Errors and secret Faults find Admission, without being observed or taken Notice of. A wise Man will suspect those Actions to which he is directed by something [besides [3]] Reason, and always apprehend some concealed Evil in every Resolution that is of a disputable Nature, when it is conformable to his particular Temper, his Age, or Way of Life, or when it favours his Pleasure or his Profit.

There is nothing of greater Importance to us than thus diligently to sift our Thoughts, and examine all these dark Recesses of the Mind, if we would establish our Souls in such a solid and substantial Virtue as will turn to Account in that great Day, when it must stand the Test of infinite Wisdom and Justice.

I shall conclude this Essay with observing that the two kinds of Hypocrisie I have here spoken of, namely that of deceiving the World, and that of imposing on our selves, are touched with wonderful Beauty in the hundred and thirty ninth Psalm. The Folly of the first kind of Hypocrisie is there set forth by Reflections on God’s Omniscience and Omnipresence, which are celebrated in as noble Strains of Poetry as any other I ever met with, either Sacred or Profane. The other kind of Hypocrisie, whereby a Man deceives himself, is intimated in the two last Verses, where the Psalmist addresses himself to the great Searcher of Hearts in that emphatical Petition; Try me, O God, and seek the ground of my heart; prove me, and examine my Thoughts. Look well if there be any way of wickedness in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.


[Footnote 1: Psalm xix. 12.]

[Footnote 2: See note on p. 441 [Footnote 1 of No. 125], vol. i.]

[Footnote 3: more than]