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riority in others ; whether a mean ambition, or the insatiate luft of being witty, (a talent in which ill-nature and malice are no bad ingredients) or lastly, whether from a natural cruelty of dispofition, abstracted from all views and confi. derations of self: to which one, or whether to all jointly we are indebted for this contagious malady; thus much is certain, from whatever seeds it springs, the growth and progress of it are as destructive to, as they are unbecoming a civilized people. To pass a hard and ill-natured reflection, upon an undesigning action; to invent, or which is equally bad, to propagate a vexatious report, without colour and grounds'; to plunder an innocent man of his character and good name, a jewel which perhaps he has starved himself to purchase, and probably would hazard his life to secure; to rob him at the same time of his happiness and peace of mind
; perhaps his bread, ---the bread may be of a virtuous family, and all this, as Solomon fays of the madman, who casteth fire-brands, arrows and death, and faith, Am I not in sport? all this, out of wantonness, and oftener from worse motives ;
the whole appearssuch a complication of badness, as requires no words or warmth of fancy to aggravate. Pride, treachery, envy, hypocrisy, malice, cruelty, and selflove, may have been said in one shape or other, to have occasioned all the frauds and mischiefs that ever happened in the world; but the chances against a coincidence of them all in one person are so many, that one would have supposed the character of a common slanderer as rare and difficult a production in nature, as that of a great genius, which seldom happens above once in an age.
But whatever was the case, when St. James wrote his epistle, we have been very successful in later days, and have found out the art, by a proper management of light and shade, to compound all these vices together, so as to give body and strength to the whole, whilst no one but a discerning artist is able to discover the labours that join in finishing the picture. --And indeed, like many other bad originals in the world, -it stands in need of all the disguise it has.-For who could be enamoured of a chaľacter, made up
fo loathsome a compound, --could they behold it naked, --in its crooked and deformed shape,--with all its natural and detested infirmities laid open to public view.
And therefore, it were to be wished, that one could do in this malignant case of the mind, what is generally done for the public good, in the more malignant and epidemical cases of the body, that is-—when they are found infectious to write a history of the distemper,--and alcertain all the symptoms of the malady, so that every one might know, whom he might venture to go near, with tolerable safety to himself.---But alas!, the symptoms of this appear in so many strange, and contradictory shapes, and vary fa wonderfully with the temper and habit of the patient, that they are not to be classed, or reduced to any one regular system.
Ten thousand are the vehicles, in which this deadly poison is prepared and communicated to the world,--and by some artful hands, 'tis done by so subtle and nice an
infusion, that it is not to be tafted or discovered, but by its effects.
How frequently is the honesty and integrity of a man, disposed of, by a smile or a shrug ?-How many good and generous actions, have been sunk into oblivion, by a distrustful look,-- or stamped with the imputation of proceeding from bad motives, by a mysterious and seasonable whil per!
Look into companies of those whose gentle natures should disarm them,we shall find no better account. -How large a portion of chastity is sent out of the world by distant hints,-nodded away, and cruelly winked into fufpicion, by the envy of those, who are passed all temptation of it themselves --How often does the reputation of a helpless creature bleed by a report--which the party, who is at the pains to propagate it, beholds with fo much pity and fellow-feeling,—that the is heartily sorry for it, hopes in God it is not true ; --however, as Arch-bishop Tillotson wittily observės, upon it, is refolved in the mean time, to give the re
port her pass, that at least it
have fair play to take its fortune in the world, to be believed or not, according to the charity of those, into whose hands it shall happen to fall.
So fruitful is this vice in variety of expedients, to satiate as well as disguise itself. But if these smoother weapons cut so fore,---what shall we say of open and unblushing scandal-subjected to no caution, tied down to no restraints ?--If the one, like an arrow Thot in the dark does nevertheless so much secret mischief, this like the pestilence, which rageth at noon-day, sweeps all before it, levelling without distinction the good and the bad ; a thousand fall beside it, and ten thousand op its right hand, they fall, so rent And torn in this tender part of them, so unmercifully butchered, as sometimes never to recover either the wounds,---or the anguish of heart--which they have occafioned.
But there is nothing so bad which will not admit of something to be said in its defence.