A modest man often conceives a great plan, and tenaciously adheres to it, conscious of his own strength, till success gives it a sanction that determines its character. Milton was not arrogant when he suffered a suggestion of judgment to escape him that proved a prophesy; nor was General Washington when he accepted of the command of the American forces. The latter has always been characterized as a modest man; but had he been merely humble, he would probably have shrunk back irresolute, afraid of trusting to himself the direction of an enterprise, on which so much depended.
A modest man is steady, an humble man timid, and a vain one presumptuous: -- this is the judgment, which the observation of many characters, has led me to form. Jesus Christ was modest, Moses was humble, and Peter vain.
Thus, discriminating modesty from humility in one case, I do not mean to confound it with bashfulness in the other. Bashfulness, in fact, is so distinct from modesty, that the most bashful lass, or raw country lout, often become the most impudent; for their bashfulness being merely the instinctive timidity of ignorance, custom soon changes it into assurance.*
* 'Such is the country-maiden's fright, When first a red-coat is in sight; Behind the door she hides her face; Next time at distance eyes the lace: She now can all his terrors stand, Nor from his squeeze withdraws her hand, She plays familiar in his arms, And every soldier hath his charms; From tent to tent she spreads her flame; For custom conquers fear and shame.'-- Gay.