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mean Ends, to do fo great Harm; to lofe Friends, and get Enemies for a Conceit; and, out of a light Humour, to provoke fierce Wrath and lafting Hatred. For this daily Experience verifies, that nothing does fo fpeedily inflame, and fo thoroughly enrage Mens Paffions, as fuch Scoffs and Invectives, as are sharper than Swords. In the mean Time, the Scoffer fails in his main Pretence, and cannot, with Reason, claim an Intereft in Wit; fince he manifeftly difcovers a great Straitnefs and Sterility of good Invention, who cannot, in all the wide Field of Things, find better Subjects of Difcourfe; who knows not how to be ingenious within reasonable Compafs; but, to pick up a forry Conceit, is forced to make Excurfions beyond the Bounds of Honefty and Decency; and, if the Word of God be true, into the very Confines of Deftruction and Death, fince Judgments are prepared for Scorners, and Stripes for the Backs of Fools.
The Purpose of all this is, to engage Men of Wit and Ingenuity, who place much of their Dexterity, and fome Part of their Pride, in the Art of fcoffing and ridiculing others, to weigh foberly and seriously the Account they must one Day give, of the Employment of their Parts; and the more they have hitherto embezzled them, the more to expiate that Unthriftinefs, by a wifer and more careful Managery for the future; and fo, instead of that vain, empty, and vanishing Mirth, they have courted here, they may find a full and eternal Satisfaction in the Joy of their Lord hereafter.
III. With Respect to ourselves, the Duty of governing our Tongues confifts in the Modesty and Decency of our Words and Expreffions, to which all Boafting and Oftentation, all Pofitiveness and Obscenity of Speech are directly oppofite. If we look into the Family of Boafters, we fhall foon
perceive the Subjects of their Oftentation are, ei-
Thus foolish a Sin is Oftentation, that it effectually undermines and fupplants itfelf: It is Glory that it feeks, and yet, inftead of gaining that, it lofes common and ordinary Eftimation. It has a ftrange Ambition
Ambition to be popular, and yet nothing makes a Man fo defpicable, and useless in the World. To do him a Kindnefs moft Men are loth, because they foresee he will arrogate it to himself, as the Effect of his Merit; to receive one from him, none, that are not in the greatest Exigence, are willing, because they know it is not only fure to be proclaimed, but magnified much above its true Worth. He is excluded therefore from all Commerce in Life, and feems only of Use to give Sport to his Company; which, by fuggesting fome Hints, and now and then fhewing a Nod or Smile of Approbation, can make him difplay himfelf more disadvantageously, more ridiculously, than the most fatyrical Character could poffibly do.
In the mean Time, though he goes on at this foolish Rate, yet, according to Solomon's Obfervation, this Distemper of his precludes all Means of his growing wifer: For feeft thou a Man wife in his own Conceit? There is more Hope of a Fool, than of him; and the Reafon is evident, because he difcards the two great Inftruments of Inftruction, Admonition and Obfervation. The former he thinks fuperfeded by his own Perfections, and the latter he circumfcribes within himfelf; and yet, even here, instead of making Enquiry into his Faults and Defects, he fixes his Contemplation only on his more fplendid Qualities, with which he is fo dazzled, that, when you bring him to the darker Parts of himself, it fares with him, as with those, that come from newly gazing on the Sun, he can fee nothing.
To cure the Impofthumation in our Minds then, which occafions this vain Oftentation of our Tongue, a good Way will be, to put ourfelves under the Courfe, which the Apoftle prefcribes, to look not every Man on his own Things, but every Man alfo on the Things of others, i. e. to obferve
the Good, that is visible in every Man, and, when we find ourselves inclined to be proud and conceited, to remember how many have excelled us in true Merit: Or, if we must needs be looking into ourselves, to take a full and juft Survey of all; to eftimate our Sins, as well as Virtues; and fo confidering, how many and heinous are the one, as well as how few and defective are the other, inftead of the proud Pharifee's, Lord, I thank thee, that I am not as other Men are, we fhall be led, with the humble Publican, to fmite our Breafts, and fay, Lord, be merciful to me, a Sinner.
Another Breach upon the Modefy and Decency of Conversation (for it will not be expected, I hope, that I fhould enlarge upon that which, the Apostle tells us, fhould not fo much as once be named among Chriftians) is a certain Peremptorinefs in Difcourfe, which confifts either in a magisterial Manner of dictating Matters of Opinion, or in a pofitive Manner of averring Matters of Fact. Now, befides that the former of these is a manifeft Incroachment upon the common Birthright of Mankind, who have, every one of them, a Liberty of thinking and judging according to their own Understandings, there is this manifest Incongruity attending it, that no Man can be pofitively affured whether what he dictates fo confidently be, in Reality, Truth or no: For the Thoughts of mortal Men, fays the wife Hebrew, are miferable, and our Devices are but uncertain. For the corruptible Rody preffes down the Soul, and the earthly Tabernacle weigbeth down the Mind, that mufeth upon many Things; and hardly do we guess aright at Things that are upon Earth, and with Labour do we find the Things that are before us, but the Things that are in Heaven, and of difficult and abftrufe Speculation, who bath searched out? And, if fo, it is Pride and Prefumption to impofe mere Conjectures for infallible Oracles upon other
Mens Judgments; for, who made thee to differ from another?" Since God has made Rationality the "common Portion of Mankind, how came it to "be thy Inclofure? Or what Signature has he "fet upon thy Understanding, what Mark of Ex"cellence, that it fhould be paramount?" The great Misfortune is, that Men of this fanguine Complexion, in relation to their own Sentiments, are generally made up of Pride and Ignorance, which, of all others, is the moft unhappy Compofition. For Ignorance, being of itfelf like ftiff Clay, when once Pride comes to scorch and harden it, grows perfectly impenetrable: And accordingly we may obferve, that none are fo obftinate and inconvincible as half-witted People, who know just enough to excite their Pride, but not fo much as to cure their Ignorance. But even, if this fhould not be the Cafe, Peremptorinefs is certainly a Thing that befits no Form of Understanding: Wife Men it makes difobliging and troublesome, and Fools ridiculous and contemptible: It cafts a Prejudice upon the most folid Reafoning, and renders the lighter more notoriously defpicable: Good Parts, by being tinctured with it, are made a Snare to their Owners, and useless to others; and mean Parts, under its Infection, are condemned to be always fo, by defpifing the Aids which fhould improve them.
The like may be faid of that other Kind of Pcremptoriness, which confifts in afferting Matters of Fact with fo much Pofitiveness that it is attended with many ill Confequences, though perhaps of a different Nature; that it often engages Men in Oaths and Execrations, to confirm their incredible Stories; that it betrays them into Feuds and perpetual Quarrels, when they meet with others as pofitive as themselves; that it expofes them to the Contempt and Scorn of every Company, while the Good