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 ] 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]
* * * * *
No. 400. Monday, June 9, 1712. Steele.
‘—Latet Anguis in Herba.’
It should, methinks, preserve Modesty and its Interests in the World, that the Transgression of it always creates Offence; and the very Purposes of Wantonness are defeated by a Carriage which has in it so much Boldness, as to intimate that Fear and Reluctance are quite extinguishd in an Object which would be otherwise desirable. It was said of a Wit of the last Age,
Sedley has that prevailing gentle Art,
Which, can with a resistless Charm impart }
The loosest Wishes to the chastest Heart; }
Raise such a Conflict, kindle such a Fire,
Between declining Virtue and Desire,
That the poor vanquished Maid dissolves away
In Dreams all Night, in Sighs and Tears all Day.