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vain. Happily, the hours thus devoted passed pleasantly as well as profitably; nor did I ever observe that the glow of animation, which naturally arises from pursuing what is agreeable to the fancy, received the slightest check from connecting that pursuit with sen. timents allied to the spirit of devotion.
May the search after truth, in all its forms, be ever attended with similar satisfaction! May every pursuit into which you enter with avidity be not only innocent in its nature, but in some degree calculated to strengthen your faith, to invigorate your hope, and to keep you unspotted from the world!
Adieu. Dec. 3, 1805.
I ET us, my dear young friend, be
fore we proceed any farther in the examination of those principles on which we build our hopes of present peace and future happiness, cast a retrospective glance at the ground we have already passed.
A belief in the existence of the Supreme Being, I have considered as the first principle of all religion: truth and justice as the first principles of moral rectitude, I have endeavoured to impress upon your mind a distinct notion of the difference between VOL. I.
knowledge and principle, and shewn you, that our belief in God, as our present witness and our future judge, must be grafted in our hearts, so as to recur and operate with constant unremitting force, before it is to us as a principle.
With regard to our ideas of truth and justice, the case is exactly similar. We may entertain very just notions respecting both, and be perfectly well instructed concerning the obligations we are under to the practice of virtues which are so essential to the happiness of society, and, notwithstanding all this instruction, be in our dealings neither just nor true. Depend upon it we shall be neither one nor other until truth and justice become habits of our minds, and by becoming such, are converted into active principles.
It would be absurd to perplex you
with abstract definitions concerning the nature of these important prin. ciples; and to speak of their utility must be superfluous: but, supposing you perfectly well informed in regard to every thing that can be urged in favour of justice and of truth, I shall confine myself to such points as may most effectually tend to establish you in their practice.
To speak the truth at all times from the heart, appears at first view to be so easy and so natural, that we are inclined to wonder why it should not be always thus spoken. And so it would be spoken, were it not for the passions by which we are too often influenced.
There is not a passion in the human heart that does not in some degree tend to lead us astray from the simplicity of truth. Love blinds us to the faults and imperfections of its object, E 2
1 we &
and so prevents us from seeing truth. Fear deters us from acknowledging it, and makes us even go over to the other side and take the part of falsehood. Hatred puts a thicker bandage on our eyes than love; and spite, and envy, and malice, are all sworn foes of truth and justice. Pride, by enhancing our own merits, and exciting exaggerated notions of our own importance, leads us far astray from truth; and self-love gives it such an artful colouring, that it is scarcely to be detected through the deep disguise.
Exposed as we are to the perpetual recurrence of some or other of these passions, how are we to preserve ourselves in a steady adherence to truth, so as never to depart from it, even when assailed by the strongest temptation? I confess I know of no way which is to a certainty effectual, but