The precepts of the New Testament as far exceed the maxims of Lord Chesterfield, on the subject of good manners, as the light of heaven exceeds the feeble taper of a glow-worm. Those infallible precepts paint hypocrisy, in all its horrid forms, with the blackest shades, and affirm that men-pleasers cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ. At the same time, they enjoin on us, to be courteous – to study to be quiet – to do good for evil – to give offence to none – to be patient towards all men – to follow after the things that make for peace – to do all in our power to live peaceably with all men, etc., etc. From these, and such like observations, it looks as if virtue lay in the medium between the parasite and the cynic – the flatterer and the clown. The customs of this world are not altogether friendly to moral virtue; nor are individuals entirely in the habit of it. Individuals are prone to call their misanthropy by the name of honesty, candor, or a sacred regard for truth; while they christen their hypocrisy, by the name of gospel courtesy. They give their vices the names of virtues, that others may esteem them such. On the other hand, when individuals are as nearly right as the state of things admits of in this world, their best exercises are abused by the censorious many. When the individual is solemn, he is said to be churlish – if he is sociable, it is vanity – if he is recluse, he is monkish – if he mingles with others, he is as bad as any of them – if industrious and frugal, he is a servant of mammon – if devotional, he is indolent – if he pleads for his just right, he is a knave – if he gives up his right, for the sake of peace, he is a fool
But, to come closer to the question at the head of this number. Sir Isaac Newton was persuaded by his friends to marry. He excused himself, by saying he had no time to court a wife. His friends said they would assist him, by sending to his apartment a woman of worth. He thanked them for their effort, and promised to receive a visit from her. His friends applied to the woman, and requested her to dispense with the usual ceremonies of courtship, and wait on the philosopher, which she consented to do. When she came to his apartment, and produced her letter of recommendation, he received her very politely – filled and fired his pipe – sat down by her side – took hold of her hand, and conversed on the subject. Before they had brought points to a close, some questions about the magnitude and motion of the heavenly bodies struck his mind with such force, that he forgot what he was about – turned his eyes up to heaven – took the pipe out of his mouth with his left hand, and, being lost in study, without design, took the lady’s hand, which he held in his own, and, with one of her fingers, crowding down the tobacco in the bowl of his pipe, held it there so long, that her heart, as well as her finger, took fire, and she, in a huff, sprang and went off, leaving the philosopher to finish his study alone.
In this case, had Sir Isaac been as great a hypocrite as many are – stopped his studies for female charms, as many collegians do – flattered and praised beyond his judgment, as is common in such cases, it is likely he might have obtained a wife; and he that findeth a wife, findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favor of the Lord. So said a wiser man than Sir Isaac.
By this, we should think that the hypocrite is better than the clown. But when, in the opposite scale, we calculate the immense advantages which the world has received from the clownish studies of Sir Isaac, it still leaves the question unanswered.
Mrs. Sandy is very polite. “Pray, come and visit me – I am exceedingly gratified in your company – I cannot part with your good company so soon – you must do me the honor of coming again,” and such like expressions, are constantly flowing from her mellifluent lips; but, among her confidents, she is frequently telling how often she grows weary of company – animadverting severely on the conversation and behaviour of her visitants, and extolling the pleasures of retirement. Notwithstanding the fine education of Mrs. Sandy, which she adheres to, as she says, to overcome the rusticity of nature, yet, among her sober friends, she owns herself a hypocrite, and her conscience condemns her for her hypocristy.
Mrs. Vatel is a different character. She has the bad custom of censuring the custom of the times – glories in her singularity – so fearful of being a flatterer, that she affronts all – under pretence of being plain-hearted, she squeezes out the bile of her heart on all whom she converses with or about, and makes a righteousness of her unrighteousness. Her conscience never reproaches her for her hypocrisy, but is constantly gnawing her heart-strings for her misanthropy.
Neither the hypocrite nor the clown can lay any just claim to moral virtue; but, in human life, I should give hypocrisy the preference – for this reason, it makes a person more exceptable among the foolish, and the proportion of the foolish to the wise is as nineteen to one.
As no precepts are equally philanthropic with the precepts of the gospel, so, likewise, nothing in the universe is equal to the spirit of grace to ennoble the soul with benevolence. So far as the religion of Jesus triumphs in the human heart, so far the man steers between Scylla and Charybdis – hypocrisy and ill will. The most refined rules of education never describe more love of country, love of all the world, benevolence, bowels and mercies, kindness, sympathy, and, indeed, every virtue, human and divine, than naturally flowed from Paul, Peter, John, etc., and, indeed, from the hearts of all the saints, in proportion to the reign of grace within them. From other sources, we may get information what we ought to be; but from the reign of grace alone are we made such as we should be. All the kind affection and benevolence that a mere man of the world excels in, flow in higher streams, a more steady current, with impartial diffusion, from a better fountain, more durable, from the humble heart where grace reigns. Kindness and faithfulness, are the internal characteristics of the real saint, which the hypocrite and the clown but poorly ape.
Miscellaneous Essays, In Prose and Verse.
Elder John Leland
Published sometime since 1810 (precise year unknown)
The Writings Of The Late Elder John Leland
Pages 406 – 408