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ON MODESTY. I KNOW nó two words that have been more abused by the different and wrong interpretations which are put upon them, than these two-Modesty and Affurance. To say such a one is a modest man, sometimes indeed passes for a good character; but at present is very often used to signify a sheepith, awkward fellow, who has neither good breeding, politeness, nor any knowledge of the world.
AGAIN, a man of assurance, though at first only denoting a person of a free and open carriage, is now very usually applied to a profligate wretch, who can break through all the rules of decency and morality without a blush.
I shall endeavour therefore in this essay to restore these words to their true meaning, to prevent the idea of Modefty from being confounded with that of Sheepishness, and to hinder Impudence from passing for Assurance.
If I was put to define Modesty, I would call it, The reflection of an ingenuous mind, either when a man has committed an action for which he censures himself, or fancies that he is exposed to the censure of others.
For this reason a man truly modeft is as much so when
is alone as in company, and as subject to a bluth in his closet, as when the eyes of multitudes are upon him.
I do not remember to have met with any instance of modeity with which I am so well pleased, as that celebrated one of the young Prince, whose father, being a tributary king to the Romans, had several complaints laid against him before the Senate, as a tyrant and oppressor of his subjects. The Prince went to Rome to defend his father, but coming into the Senate, and hearing a multitude of crimes proved upon him, was so oppressed when it came to his turn to speak, that he was unable to utter a word. The story tells us, that the fathers were more moved, at this instance of modesty and ingenuity, than they could have been by the most pathetic oration; and, in short, pardoned the guilty father for this early promise of virtue in the son.
I TAKE Assurance to be, the faculty of possessing a man's self, or of saying and doing indifferent things without any uneasiness or emotion in the mind. That which generally gives a man assurance, is a moderate knowledge of the world; but above all, a mind fixed and determined in itself to do nothing against the rules of honour and decency. An open and affured behaviour is the natural consequence of such a resolution. A man thus armed, if his words or actions are at any time misinterpreted, retires within himself, and from a consciousness of his own integrity, assumes force enough to despise the little censures of ignorance or malice,
Every one ought to cherish and encourage in himself the modesty and assurance I have here mentioned.
A MAN without assurance is liable to be made uneasy by the folly or ill-nature of every one he converses with. A man without modesty is loft to all sense of honour-and virtue.
It is more than probable, that the Prince above-mentioned possessed both these qualifications in a very eminent degree. Without assurance he would never have undertaken to speak before the most auguft affembly in the world; without modesty he would have pleaded the cause he had taken: upon him, though it had appeared ever fo scandalous.
From what has been said, it is plain that modesty and assurance are both amiable, and may very well meet in the same person.' When they are thus mixed and blended together, they compofe what we endeavour to express when we say a modeft affurance ; by which we understand the just mean between bafhfulness and impudence.
I SHALL conclude with observing, that as the same man may
be both modeft and assured ; so it is also poflible for the same person to be both impudent and bashful.
We have frequent instances of this odd kind of mixture in people of depraved minds and mean education ; who though they are not able to meet a man's eyes, or pronounce a sentence without confusion, can voluntarily com. mit the greatest villanies, or moft indecent actions.
Such a person seems to have made a resolution to do ill even in spite of himself, and in-defiance of all those checks and reftraints his temper and complexion seem to have laid
in his way.
UPON the whole, I would endeavour to establish this maxim, That the practice of virtue is the most
proper method to give a man'a becoming afsurance in his words and
actions. Guilt always seeks to shelter itself in one of the extremes, and is sometimes attended with both.
ON CHEERFULNESS. I HAVI
HAVE always preferred Cheerfulnefs to Mirth. The latter I consider as an act, the former as a habit of the mind. Mirth is short and transient, cheerfulness fixed and permanent. Those are often raised into the greatest tran.. sports of mirth, who are subject to the greatest depressions of melancholy : on the contrary, cheerfulness, though it does not give the mind such an exquifite gladness, prevents us from falling into any depths of sorrow. Mirth is like a flash of lightening, that breaks through a gloom of clouds, and glitters for a moment; cheerfulness keeps up a kind of day-light in the mind, and fills it with a fteady and perpetual serenity.
Men of austere principles look upon mirth as too wan. ton and dissolute for a state of probation, and as filled with a certain triumph and insolence of heart that is inconsistent with a life which is every moment obnoxious to the greatest dangers. Writers of this complexion have observed, that the sacred Person who was the great pattern of perfection, was never seen to laugh.
CHEERFULNESS of mind is not liable to any of these excepțions: it is of a serious and composed nature: it does not throw the mind into a condition improper for the present ftate of humanity, and is very confpicuous in the characters of those who are looked upon as the greatest philosophers among the Heathens, as well as among those who have been
deservedly esteemed as saints and holy men among Chriftians.
If we consider cheerfulness in three lights, with regard to ourselves, to those we converse with, and to the great Author of 'our being, it will not a little recommend itself on each of these accounts. The man who is possessed of this excellent frame of mind, is not only easy in his thoughts, but a perfect master of all the powers and faculties of his soul; hisimagination is always clear, and his judgment undisturbed ; his temper is even and unruffled, whether in action or in solitude. He comes with a relish to all those goods which nature has provided for him, tastes all the pleasures of the creation which are poured upon him, and does not feel the full weight of those accidental evils which may befal him..
If we consider him in relation to the persons whom he converses with, it naturally produces love and good-will towards him. A cheerful mind is not only disposed to be affable and obliging, but raises the same good humour in those who come within its influence. A man finds himself pleased, he does not know why, with the cheerfulness of his companion: it is like a sudden sunshine that awakens a lecret delight in the mind, without her attending to it. The heart rejoices of its own accord, and naturally flows out into friendship and benevolence towards the person who has so kindly an affect upon it.
When I consider this cheerful state of mind in its third relation, I cannot but look upon it as a constant habitual gratitude to the Author of Nature. An inward cheerfulness is an implicit praise and thanksgiving to Providence under all its dispensations. It is a kind of acquiescence in the ftate wherein we are placed, and a secret approbation of the Divine Will in his conduct towards man.