« PreviousContinue »
basis of every virtue, I have thought it expedient to make use of such illus- ' trations, as might touch the heart through the medium of the imagination. Truth, in order to render herself pleasing to the youthful mind, must sometimes permit herself to be arrayed by the hand of fancy. When she appears thus decorated, some care is, however, necessary, lest the attention should be so much engaged by the drapery, as to overlook the symmetry and proportions of the figure which it conceals.
In order to prevent this, it is necessary to keep the “mind's eye” intently fixed upon the object proposed; to mark how far each circumstance corresponds with the general design, and how far it tends to place the truths it was its avowed purpose to illustrate, in a clearer point of view. When satisfied upon this head,
it is then our duty to apply the moral to our hearts.
In the characters which I have exhibited, I have trusted little to fancy; they have been sketched from experience and observation : but when characters are drawn for the mere purposes of illustration, nothing can be more absurd than to inquire when or where they lived, or indeed to mind whether they ever lived at all. The sole question to be asked is, whether such and such dispositions and opinions would naturally and inevitably lead to such and such consequences.
It is thus I would have you to examine what has been said of the characters now under review. It is thus, indeed, that I would advise you at all times to examine the purport of whatever is offered as an illustration of any moral truth. It is by exerçising your judgment in this way
that you can alone expect to reap any benefit from what you read ; and as I am very anxious to enforce upon you the observance of a practice which I believe to be so salutary, I shall, without making any apology for wearying you by repetitions, intreat your attention to the following remarks.
We see in Frederic and Albert, two persons of very opposite characters. We have traced whence the difference arose. We have seen that though they had the same notions respecting right and wrong, the same ideas of truth and falsehood, of vice and virtue ; the same belief in the government of the Supreme Being, and of a future state, and of all the doctrines of Christianity ; this knowledge and this belief was in the mind of one, speculative opinion ; in the mind of the other, active principle.
The object of inquiry then is, whe. ther this circumstance be in itself sufficient to account for such a difference of character as has been now exhibited ? As our decision upon this point may be of great importance, it is necessary to proceed to the examination with all due seriousness and circumspection.
To aid our inquiry, let us see in what manner other powerful principles operate: that of self-preservation, for instance, the first with which we are thoroughly acquainted. It is a principle implanted in our minds by nature, but it is regulated by reason and experience. An infant, after having been burned, dreads the fire; but a grown person, of sound intellect, would shùn the danger without hav, ing in his own person experienced the effects: nor would you or I, if, when we were walking at the foot of a pre.
cipice, we saw a huge stone descending, stop to reason upon the propriety of getting out of its way. The principle of self-preservation would instantly inspire us with the desire of running off as fast as possible.
The desire of happiness is no less strong a principle than that of selfpreservation : but our knowledge with respect to the means by which it is to be procured, is of less easy acquirement. It is a subject upon which we are extremely liable to be mistaken; and as all our mistakes upon it have the force of the principle from which they proceed, and to which they are united, they cannot fail to be attended with very important consequences,
Frederic, you will observe, placed all his happiness in the gratification of every selfish wish — the indulgence of every selfish passion. Albert looked