« הקודםהמשך »
crisice the esteem of all wise and good men to the shouts of the giddy multitude; if his ambition overleaps the bounds os decency and truth, and breaks through obligations of honour and virtue, it is then not only vanity, but vice; a vice the most destructive to the peace and happiness of human society, and which of all others hath made the greatest havoc and- devastation among men.
What au instance have we here of the wide difference between common opinion and truth? That a vice so big with mischief ar.d misery should be mistaken for a virtue! and that they who have been most infamous for it should be crowned with laurels, even by those who have been ruined by it; and have those laurels perpetuated by the common consent of men through aster ages! Seneca's judgment of Alexander is certainly more agreeable to truth than the common opinion; who called him "a public cut-throat, rather than "a hero; and who, in seeking only to be '* a terror to mankind, arose to no greater "an excellence, than what belonged to f the most hurtful and hateful animals on "earth*."
^uid enim simile habebat vefanus adokicens.
Certain it is, that these false heroes are of all men most ignorant of themselves, who seek their gain and glory from the destruction of their own species; and by this wicked ambition entail infamy and curses upon their name and family, instead of that immortal glory they pursued, and imagined they had attained. According to the prophet's words, " Woe to him who co,** vetethan evil covetousness to his house, that "he may set his nest on high; that he
** may "may be delivered from the power of* "evil. Thou hast consulted shame to "thine house, by cutting off many people; "and hast sinned against thy soul," Hab. ji. 9, 10*.
em pro virtute crat se'ix temeritar, ?—Hie a pueritia latro, gentiunique vaftator, tam hostium perniciet quam amicorum. Qui summum bonum duceret terrori effc cunctis mortalibus: oblitus non serociflima tantum, sed ignavifiima quoquc animalia, timeri ob virus malum. Sen. de Bines, cap. 13.
How different from this is the judgment of Pintarch in this matter? who, in his Qration concerning the Fortune and Virtue of Alexander, exalts him into a true hen, and justifies all the waste he made of mankind under (the fame colour with which the Spaniards, excused their inhuman barbarities towards the poor Indians, -wz.) a pretence of civilizing them. And in attributing all his success to his virtue, he talks more like A soldier serving under him in his wars, than an historian who lived many years afterwards, ,whose business it was to transmit hia character impartially to future ages. And in whatever other respects Mr. Dryden may give the preserence to Plutarch before Seneca (which he does with much zeal in his Preface to Plutarch's Lives), yet it must be allowed, that, in this instance at least, she latter shows more of the philosopher. Sec slut. Mor. sol. I. ai Jirt.
Now no man can truly know himself till he be acquainted with this, which is so often the secret and unperceived spring of his actions, and observes how far it governs and influences him in his conversation and conduct.
And to correct the irregularity and extravagance of this passion, let us but reflect how airy and unsubstantial a pleasure the highest gratisications of it afford ; how many cruel mortisications it 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; (for virtue and real excellence will rise to the view of the world, though it be not mounted on the
wings ,wings of ambition, which, by soaring too high, procures but a more fatal fall); and how much more solid pleasure the approbation of conscience will yield, than the acclamations of ignorant arid 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 understanding, and you will ne"ver be fond of popularity, nor afraid "of censure; nor solicitous what judg*' ment they may form of you, who know "not how to judge rightly of them"selves *."
* inift31>2&2: that galitcth a-wicied gain.
soft'' EJsay m Mam,
What Kind of Knowledge "we are already furnijhed with, and what Degree of EJieem we set upon it.
XII." A MAN can never rightly know .£*• "himself, unless he examines "into his knowledge of other things."
* kt'.yh iffu ti; tot ry.fiovtxet ao;ruvf xxt yj-n nvetg X£f7*f <P°£r' c'v$ xat wiot xulw cslas x^fof. Marc. A*ton. Ub. IX. 5 18.
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 accountof it; of what real use it is to us, and what effect it hath upon us; whether itdoes not make us too stiff, unsociable, and afsuming; testy and supercilious, and ready to despise others for their supposed ignorance. If so, our knowledge, be it what it will, does us more harm than good. We were better without it; ignorance itself would not render us so ridiculous. Such a temper, with all our knowledge, fhows that. we ktioiu not ourselves.
"A man is certainly proud of that "knowledge he despises ethers for the "want of."
How common is it for some men to be fond of appearing to know move 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 conversation* they are drawn dry, and you see to the bottom of them much sooner than you could at sirst imagine. And even that torrent of learning, which they pour ut upon you at sirst so unmercifully, raler confounds than satissies you. Their