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Again, as it is with those that are indisposed and out of order,—some, if a tooth or finger do but ache, presently run to a physician; others send for one to their houses, if they find themselves but the least feverish and desire his advice and assistance; but those that are either melancholical, or but any ways crazed in their heads, cannot endure so much as the looks of a physician, but either keep out of sight when he comes or command him to be gone, being altogether insensible of their condition,—so, in persons that commit any heinous crime or fall into any error, I look upon those as perfectly incurable, who take it ill to be admonished of their fault and look upon reproof and admonition as the greatest rudeness and incivility in the world, whereas those that can quietly hearken and submit to the advice of friends and superiors deserve a more favorable opinion, and may be thought to be of a [p. 465] much better disposition. But the greatest character of hopeful men, and such as may be probably excellent proficients in time, belongs to those who, upon a commission of a fault, immediately apply themselves to such as will reprove and correct them; who plainly disclose their grief and open their malady; who do not rejoice in concealing their distemper, and are not content to have their troubles unknown; lastly, who make a full confession of what they have done amiss, and desire the help of a friend to examine and direct them for the future. Diogenes, I am sure, was of this opinion. He said, that whosoever would be certainly and constantly in the right must get either a virtuous good friend or an incensed ill-natured enemy to his monitor; the one by gentle admonition to reprove and persuade him, the other to work upon him by severity, and awe him into a virtuous course of life.

There is a sort of men in the world, that are so vain and foolish as to take a pride in being the first discoverers of their own imperfections; if they have but a rent or spot in their clothes, or have got a torn pair of shoes on, they are the most forward of any to tell it in company; and (which is more) they are very apt, out of a silly, empty, arrogant humor, to make themselves the subject of their drollery, if they are of a dwarfish stature or any way deformed; yet (which is strange) these very men, at the very same time, endeavor to excuse and palliate the internal imperfections of the mind and the more ugly deformities of the soul, as envy, evil-custom, detraction, voluptuousness, &c., and will not suffer any one either to see or probe them. These are, as it were, so many sore places, and they cannot endure to have them touched and meddled with. Such men as these (I may be bold to say) have very few signs of proficiency, or rather none at all.

Now, on the contrary, he that examines his own failings with the greatest severity, that impartially blames or corrects [p. 466] himself as often as he does amiss, or (which is almost as commendable) grows firmer and better by present advice, as well as more able and ready to endure a reprimand for the future, seems to me truly and sincerely to have rejected and forsaken vice.

It is certainly our duty to avoid all appearance of evil, and to be ashamed to give occasion even to be reputed vicious; yet evil reports are so inconsiderable to a wise man, that, if he have a greater aversion to the nature of evil than to the infamy that attends it, he will not fear what is said of him abroad, nor what calumnies are raised, if so be he be made the better by them. It was handsomely said of Diogenes, when he saw a young spark coming out of a tavern, who at the sight of him drew back: Do not retire, says he, for the more you go backward, the more you will be in the tavern. Even so every vicious person, the more he denies and palliates vice, the more aggravates and confirms it, and with surer footing goes farther into wickedness; like some persons of ordinary rank and quality, who, while they assume above themselves, and out of arrogance would be thought rich, are made really poor and necessitous, by pretending to be otherwise.

Hippocrates, a man of wonderful skill in physic, was very ingenuous in this point, and fit to be imitated by the greatest proficients in philosophy. He confessed publicly, that he had mistaken the nature of the sutures in the skull, and has left an acknowledgment of his ignorance upon record, under his own hand; for he thought it very unworthy a man of his profession not to discover where he was in the wrong, seeing others might suffer and err by his authority. And, indeed, it had been very unreasonable, if he, whose business and concern it was to save others and to set them right, should not have had the courage to cure himself, and to discover his weakness and imperfections in his own faculty.

[p. 467] Pyrrhon and Bion (two eminent philosophers) have given rules of proficiency; but they seem rather signs of a complete habit of virtue, than a progressive disposition to it. Bion told his friend, that they then might be assured of their proficiency, when they could endure a reproof from anybody with the same indifferency and unconcernedness as they could hear the highest encomiums, even such a one as this of the poet:

Some heavenly flame inspires your breast;
Live great, rejoice, and be for ever blest.

The other, to wit, Pyrrhon, being at sea and in great danger, by reason of a tempest that arose, took particular notice (as the story goes) of a hog that was on board, which all the while very unconcernedly fed upon some corn which lay scattered about; he showed it to his companions, and told them that they ought to acquire by reading and philosophy such an apathy and unconcernedness in all accidents and dangers as they saw that poor creature naturally have.

1 Odyss. VI. 187; XXIV. 402.

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