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whatever. We say likewise that truth and justice are first principles in morals, because truth and justice are essential to our notions of morality. But when we say that such a one has good or bad principles, I am afraid we do not always so thoroughly comprehend the full force of the expression.
To have good principles is not merely to have a knowledge of our duty, but to have such a deep sense of moral obligation, as shall render that knowledge effectual, by impelling us at all times, and under every circumstance, to judge and act according to its dictates.
The difference between a good education and a bad one, in my opinion is, that in the course of the former the young mind is assisted in transforming the precepts of religion and virtue into those habits of thinking and acting, which are
termed ruling principles f and that in the latter, no such assistance is afforded.
This will explain to you why I took so much pains to induce you to bring every opinion and action to a certain test — a test to which you had in all cases previously yielded a full assent. It will explain to you, why I never thought, in any thing relative to moral conduct, mere restriction to be sufficient, but endeavoured to prompt, even the youngest of you, to acquire a habit of self-control from a sense of interest and of duty.
At the distance to which I am now removed, I can no longer thus assist you: but of such assistance I trust you will never be entirely destitute. It is, however, no more than assistance that can .be afforded you by the most enlightened or zealous
friends friends you can possibly be ever blessed with. They may give you precepts, but it is by your own practical exercise of the precepts taught, that they must be worked into the principles upon which your future character will depend.
I had the pleasure of witnessing in many instances, the spontaneous effects of this dawn of principle, in the children so dear to my affections: but it is by constant and habitual exercise that it can alone be confirmed; and as this exercise depends in a great measure on the force with which the precepts of religion and virtue recur to the mind, it is necessary that these precepts should be kept in your remembrance by frequent repetition. In this view my correspondence may still be serviceable.
While it was in my power to lay
hold hold on the favourable moment for impressing the mind with religious or moral sentiments, I often preferred indirect methods of instruction. Leaving to the care of your zealous and indefatigable governess to instruct you in the letter of the law, I endeavoured, in the hours of play and relaxation, to impress its spirit on the heart. My instructions, as they must now necessarily assume a graver form, so must they embrace a wider field than when drawn forth by the passing occurrences of the day, and confined to topics which you were fully prepared, by previous information, to comprehend. But I promise you, they shall be enlivened as much as possible by the sort of illustration best suited to your present taste. On parts of my subject that are yet new to you I may, perhaps, at first reading appear obscure. I hope I shall seldom be altogether unintelligible: but whenever you meet with any thing that you do not perfectly understand, I would recommend it to you to mark the passage with your pencil, and, after you have gone through the whole, to return to it and give it the advantage of reconsideration. You will, however, as I trust, have little reason to complain of obscurity, provided you read with attention; and it is only according to the degree of attention you bestow, that I expect you to profit by the perusal.