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JOHN TILLOTSON: 1630–1694.
Tillotson, son of a clothier near Halifax, rose to be Archbishop of Canterbury. The sole property he was able to leave to his widow was his Sermons, which, on account of his great celebrity as a divine, were purchased by a bookseller for no less than 2500 guineas. They have ever since been admired as models of correct and elegant composition.
ADVANTAGES OF TRUTH AND SINCERITY. Truth and reality have all the advantages of appearance, and many more. If the show of anything be good for anything, I am sure sincerity is better : for why does any man dissemble, or seem to be that which he is not, but because he thinks it good to have such a quality as he pretends to ? for to counterfeit and dissemble, is to put on the appearance of some real excellency. Now, the best way in the world for a man to seem to be anything, is really to be what he would seem to be. Besides, that it is many times as troublesome to make good the pretence of a good quality, as to have it; and if a man have it not, it is ten to one but he is discovered to want it, and then all his pains and labour to seem to have it are lost. There is something unnatural in painting, which a skilful eye will easily discern from native beauty and complexion.
It is hard to personate and act a part long; for where truth is not at the bottom, nature will always be endeavouring to return, and will peep out and betray herself one time or other. Therefore, if any man think it convenient to seem good, let him be so indeed, and then his goodness will appear to everybody's satisfaction; so that, upon all accounts, sincerity is true wisdom. Particularly as to the affairs of this world, integrity hath many advantages over all the fine and artificial ways of dissimulation and deceit; it is much the plainer and easier, much the safer and more secure way of dealing in the world ; it has less of trouble and difficulty, of entanglement and perplexity, of danger and hazard in it; it is the shortest and nearest way to our end, carrying us thither in a straight line, and will hold out and last longest. The arts of deceit and cunning do continually grow weaker, and less effectual and serviceable to them that use them ; whereas integrity gains strength by use; and the more and longer any man practiseth it, the greater service it does him, by confirming his reputation, and encouraging those with whom he hath to do to repose the greatest trust and confidence in him, which is an unspeakable advantage in the business and affairs of life.
Truth is always consistent with itself, and needs nothing to help it out; it is always near at hand, and sits upon our lips, and is ready to drop out before we are aware; whereas a lie is troublesome, and sets a man's invention upon the rack, and one trick needs a great many more to make it good. It is like building upon a false foundation, which continually stands in need of props to shore it up, and proves at last more chargeable than to have raised a substantial building at first upon a true and solid foundation ; for sincerity is firm and substantial, and there is nothing hollow or unsound in it, and because it is plain and open, fears no discovery ; of which the crafty man is always in danger; and when he thinks he walks in the dark, all his pretences are so transparent, that he that runs may read them. He is the last man that finds himself to be found out; and whilst he takes it for granted that he makes fools of others, he renders himself ridiculous.
Add to all this, that sincerity is the most compendious wisdom, and an excellent instrument for the speedy despatch of business; it creates confidence in those we have to deal with, saves the labour of many inquiries, and brings things to an issue in few words ; it is like travelling in a plain, beaten road, which commonly brings a man sooner to his journey's end than by-ways, in which men often lose themselves. In a word, whatsoever convenience may be thought to be in falsehood and dissimulation, it is soon over ; but the inconvenience of it is perpetual, because it brings a man under an everlasting jealousy and suspicion, so that he is not believed when he speaks truth, nor trusted perhaps when he means honestly. When a man has once forfeited the reputation of his integrity, he is set fast, and nothing will then serve his turn, neither truth nor falsehood.
And I have often thought that God hath, in his great wisdom, hid from men of false and dishonest minds the wonderful advantages of truth and integrity to the prosperity even of our worldly affairs. These men are so blinded by their covetousness and ambition, that they cannot look beyond a present advantage, nor forbear to seize upon it, though by ways never so indirect; they cannot see so far as to the remote consequences of a steady integrity, and the vast benefit and advantages which it will bring a man at last. Were but this sort of men wise and clear-sighted enough to discern this, they would be honest out of very knavery, not out of any love to honesty and virtue, but with a crafty design to promote and advance more effectually their own interests; and therefore the justice of the Divine Providence hath hid this truest point of wisdom from their eyes, that bad men might not be upon equal terms with the just and upright, and serve their own wicked designs by honest and lawful means.
Indeed, if a man were only to deal in the world for a day, and should never have occasion to converse more with mankind, never more need their good opinion or good word, it were then no great matter-speaking as to the concernments of this world-if a man spend his reputation all at once, and ventured it at one throw : but if he be to continue in the world, and would have the advantage of conversation whilst he is in it, let him make use of truth and sincerity in all his words and actions ; for nothing but this will last and hold out to the end : all other arts will fail, but truth and integrity will carry a man through, and bear him out to the last.
JOHN LOCKE: 1632-1704.
Locke, the greatest philosophical writer of his time, was educated for the
profession of medicine, but spent the most of his life in studious retirement. His principal work is An Essay on the Human Understanding. He wrote besides a Treatise on Toleration, an Essay on Education, two Treatises on Civil Government, and a tract on The Conduct of the Understanding.
READING. From The Conduct of the Understanding. This is that which I think great readers are apt to be mistaken in. Those who have read of everything, are thought to understand everything too; but it is not always so. Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge : it is thinking makes what we read ours. We are of the ruminating kind, and it is not enough to cram ourselves with a great load of collections ; unless we chew them over again, they will not give us strength and nourishment. There are indeed in some writers visible instances of deep thought, close and acute reasoning, and ideas well pursued. The light these would give would be of great use, if their readers would observe and imitate them : all the rest at best are but particulars fit to be turned into knowledge ; but that can be done only by our own meditation, and examining the reach, force, and coherence of what is said ; and then, as far as we apprehend and see the connection of ideas, so far it is ours; without that, it is but so much loose matter floating in our brain. The memory may be stored, but the judgment is little better, and the stock of knowledge not increased, by being able to repeat what others have said, or produce the arguments we have found in them. Such a knowledge as this is but a knowledge by hearsay, and the ostentation of it is at best but talking by rote, and very often upon weak and wrong principles. For all that is to be found in books is not built upon true foundations, nor always rightly deduced from the principles it is pretended to be built on. Such an examen as is requisite to discover that, every reader's mind is not forward to make, especially in those who have given themselves up to a party, and only hunt for what they can scrape together that may favour and support the tenets of it. Such men wilfully exclude themselves from truth, and from all true benefit to be received by reading. Others, of more indifferency, often want attention and industry. The mind is backward in itself to be at the pains to trace every argument to its original, and to see upon what basis it stands, and how firmly; but yet it is this that gives so much the advantage to one man more than another in reading. The mind should, by severe rules, be tied down to this, at first uneasy, task; use and exercise will give it facility. So that those who are accustomed to it, readily, as it were with one cast of the eye, take a view of the argument, and presently, in most cases, see where it bottoms. Those who have got this faculty, one may say, have got the true key of books, and the clue to lead them through the mizmaze of variety of opinions and authors to truth and certainty. This young beginners should be entered in and shewn the use of, that they might profit by their reading. Those who are strangers to it will be apt to think it too great a clog in the way of men's studies; and they will suspect they shall make but small progress, if, in the books they read, they must stand to examine and unravel every argument, and follow it step by step up to its original.
I answer, this is a good objection, and ought to weigh with those whose reading is designed for much talk and little knowledge, and I have nothing to say to it. But I am here inquiring into the conduct of the understanding in its progress towards knowledge ; and
to those who aim at that, I may say, that he who fair and softly goes steadily forward in a course that points right, will sooner be at his journey's end, than he that runs after every one he meets, though he gallop all day full speed.
To which let me add, that this way of thinking on, and profiting by, what we read, will be a clog and rub to any one only in the beginning ; when custom and exercise have made it familiar, it will be despatched, in most occasions, without resting or interruption in the course of our reading. The motions and views of a mind exercised that way are wonderfully quick; and a man used to such sort of reflections sees as much at one glimpse as would require a long discourse to lay before another, and make out an entire and gradual deduction. Besides that, when the first difficulties are over, the delight and sensible advantage it brings mightily encourages and enlivens the mind in reading, which, without this, is very improperly called study.
SAMUEL PEPYS: 1632-1703,
Pepys was secretary to the Admiralty in the reigns of Charles II. and
James II. His Diary is valuable as a curious and faithful picture of the times.
MR PEPYS SETS UP A CARRIAGE. From his Diary. 1668, November 5. With Mr Povy spent all the afternoon going up and down among the coachmakers in Cow Lane, and did see several, and at last did pitch upon a little chariott, whose body was framed, but not covered, at the widow's, that made Mr Lowther's fine coach ; and we are mightily pleased with it, it being light, and will be very genteel and sober: to be covered with leather, but yet will hold four. Being much satisfied with this, I carried him to Whitehall. Home, where I give my wife a good account of my day's work.
30. My wife, after dinner, went the first time abroad in her coach, calling on Roger Pepys, and visiting Mrs Creed, and my cosen Turner. Thus ended this month with very good content, but most expenseful to my purse on things of pleasure, having furnished my wife's closet and the best chamber, and a coach and horses, that