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applicable to particular circumstances; but principles are of universal application. The circumstances in which you now are placed may be suddenly altered. Your brothers must, and your sisters may, at the same age, be in situations that are in many respects dissimilar. But in no circumstances, in no situation, can the pure principles of religion and morality fail to be of use. In whatever degree the faculties of your mind may be cultivated, whether you are led to expand them by the acquirement of knowledge, or to employ them in the attainment of accomplishments, these principles will still be to you of equal value. They will still be found to form the stamina, the vital essence of your character.
The opinions which you form on subjects that are in anywise interesting, will generally be found to take
their colouring from your principles. The love of truth, and a determined resolution of adhering to it, never fails to give to the judgment a soundness and a perspicacity which renders it quick in detecting the impositions . of sophistry, and prevents it from espousing opinions merely because they are espoused by those in whose judgment we happen to place confidence. Upon such subjects as either from want of capacity, or opportunity, or inclination, we have not thoroughly examined, the principles of truth and justice will teach us to be silent. Nor will these principles permit us to repeat the opinions or observations of others as if they were our own; and thus taking credit to ourselves for a degree of information which we do not possess. Were this rule to be rigidly adhered to, it would, it is true, put to silence many a very
eloquent eloquent tongue. But the praise that is due to eloquence ought not to seduce us from the duty that is due to truth.
The species of imposition to which I have just now alluded holds forth to vanity the alluring prospect of a triumph, purchased at so cheap a rate, that we cannot wonder so many should fall into the snare. Those who practise it will say in their defence, that it hurts no one: that the sentiments they borrow are intrinsically good, and that the knowlege which they retail as their own acquisition, loses nothing of its value from the deception. But does the mind that is thus practised in deception lose nothing? Can the spirit of integrity remain unsullied amid the consciousness of perpetual imposition? No: it is impossible. In every false appearance which we wil
lingly assume, we depart from the principles of truth; and in every departure from these principles, we lessen their strength, and deprive them of their power over our hearts. And what do we gain by shining in borrowed plumage? We obtain perhaps a momentary admiration and applause. But if we excite expectations which we cannot realize, is there not some danger that this admiration and applause will soon be converted into contempt? Can we hope that those whom we have tricked into a high opinion of our abilities, or of our knowledge, or of our virtues, will not, when they discover how we have imposed upon them, be indignant at the imposition? In proportion as they had been induced to think better of us than we deserved, they will be inclined to think worse of us than we deserve: and thus whatever merit
we we really have, will fail .to make the* impression which it would have made had we been contented to assume nothing beyond it.
In justice to ourselves, then, we ought to be careful how we subject our pretensions to so severe a scrutiny. Let us adhere to the simplicity of truth, and we shall have nothing to apprehend. If we fail to produce admiration, we shall produce what is much better than admiration, solid and lasting esteem.
There perhaps never was a period when the general tone of manners was more adverse to the practice of strict and genuine sincerity than the present. Those who consider themselves sent into the world for no other purpose than to please the world, must take the manners of the world as their only rule of action. But even those who do not seriously think