« PreviousContinue »
against ourselves. This would be to act from the dictates of resent. ment, not from the principles of justice.
It may appear to require no small degree of magnanimity and forbearance to act as I have advised ; but it in reality requires nothing more than a firm, a settled, and an everactive belief in the presence and providence of God, and a future judg. ment. With this conviction upon our minds, we shall be more anxious to approve ourselves to God, than to be approved of man; and conse. quently be more solicitous concerning the motives than concerning the consequences of our conduct.
The strongest symptom of innate depravity which I have ever been able to detect in the human mind, is found in the so general propensity to believe ill, upon slight grounds,
of those with whom we are only slightly, or perhaps not at all acquainted. You know with what earnestness I have always endeavoured to combat this propensity, wherever we have observed it. It will always be found strongest in the worst furnished minds. The consciousness of worthlessness which haunts the idle and the ignorant, is a sensation of so unpleasant a nature, that one cannot wonder they should eagerly seek to get rid of it, by turning their minds to the faults of others. But why should people, who have in them the consciousness of any worth, be so apt to believe that others are less worthy than themselves ? I must, I am afraid, confess, that it can, in some instances, be no otherwise accounted for, than from a supposition of latent pride, envy, or malevolence. Sometimes, however, I have traced F 4
this propensity to a source different from either of these, and seen it evi. dently the effect of habit; habit contracted even in the simplicity of childhood, from those with whom the first years of life were spent. • From whatever source it proceeds, a propensity to think ill of others must present a formidable obstacle to the cultivation of the principles of justice. Guard therefore, my love, I beseech you, guard against the admission of this propensity, as you value the peace and purity of your own bosom. By contemplating what is noble, and generous, and good, in human character, you will acquire a taste and an esteem for virtue. By the practice of virtue, your esteem of it will be confirmed; the principles of justice will extend this esteem to all who, in the general tenor of their lives, have shewn themselves
the friends of virtue. Against such you will not be apt hastily to imbibe a prejudice from the passing current of idle rumour, or the whispered misrepresentations of wilful malice. You will here, as on every other occasion, be careful to do as you would be done by.
I am aware that it will by many persons be expected that I should take some pains to warn you against the hasty reception of a too favourable impression of the hearts and dispositions of those with whom you have not had a long and intimate acquaintance. But though I cannot deny that a tendency to view human nature on its brightest side, may occasionally be productive of no small degree of mortification and disappointment; I believe that, upon the whole, it produces, to every indiviF 5
dual who cherishes it, a much greater portion of pleasure than of pain. It certainly produces a much greater portion of benevolence; and all the benevolent sensations are attended with pleasure ; all the malevolent with pain. Taking in, therefore, the whole of life, it is much better to be exposed to the pain of occasional disappointments, than to the pain of everlasting suspicion. And when, after such disappointments, we can retire into our own hearts, and read there an apology for our credulity, we may be wiser, but shall not be much the worse, for all that it has made us suffer. · I shall now only mention one other advantage to be derived from cultivating the principles of justice, in connection with the principles of religion, viz. that it obliges us to make