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blessed, we must exclude them from our bosoms.
To regulate these passions and af. fections, becomes therefore a duty arising from the principles of justice. In justice to ourselves we must endeavour to subdue them ; for, if benevolence, humility, charity, meekness and forbearance, have a tendency to increase our happiness, we cannot in justice to ourselves neglect their cultivation. Formed as we are formed, this would be true, though we were persuaded that we had been thus formed by chance, and that God neither observes our conduct, nor will call us to account for our actions. But if we believe that there is a God, and that there is a future state in which we must be for ever happy or for ever miserable, the duty which we owe to ourselves, wears a still more serious aspect.
The use which we make of the short period of probation, fixes our fate to all eternity. This period has, as I in a former letter observed, been divided by God into several distinct parts, through which we proceed progressively to that final close, beyond which we know nothing more than God has been pleased specially to declare. Not only each of these stages of existence, but every moment spent in each of them, takes something of its colouring from the past, or gives a colouring to the future. The manner in which the hours of youth are spent, has in general an influence upon every future hour. If the habit of acting up to the degree of knowledge possessed be not then acquired, it will probably never be acquired; and present convenience or present inclination will conse
quently become the sole principle of action.
To begin then by times to examine your own heart, and to reflect upon the motives and the consequences of your conduct, is but doing justice to your future days. If you look up to God as the witness of your actions, and to Heaven as the scene of their reward, your motives will never fail to be pure, and in their purity you will find consolation even for the errors of your judgment. But the same good principles which lead you to reflect upon your motives, will lead you to improve your judgment, by employing every opportunity of instruction to the best advantage.
I address myself to you as if you were self-dependant, and as if you were to be indebted to yourself, and
not to the care of your friends, for the formation of your principles. But you must see that I do this, not from any doubt of your receiving from them all the instruction possible, but from a conviction that the application of their instructions rests entirely upon the exertions of your own mind. Even the obedience due to those whom Providence has ordained to be the directors of your conduct, will be the more steady and uniform from its being the result of principle. From a principle higher than that of fear, I would have it to proceed. By connecting it with the idea of the duty which you owe to God, it will acquire strength and stability, and prove the means of increasing your benevolent affections, by the consciousness of having given satisfaction to those who are interested in your improvement.
By connecting the idea of every duty with the approbation of God, and of every departure from duty with his disapprobation, your principles will soon acquire strength to resist temptation. But upon what grounds does this connection rest ? Upon what authority do we with so much certainty pronounce our assurance that God will visit the wicked and reward the just ? This, my love, is a very serious inquiry, and one upon which too much depends to be slightly answered. By giving you a clear and comprehensive view of the basis of our faith, I hope to assist you in answering it to your satisfaction.
You will then find what reason I had to assure you, that it is from religion the principles of truth and justice derive their best support. In the view I shall give you of that re