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My dearest Lady Elizabeth,
"VTOU are too well acquainted with my sentiments to render it necessary to inform you that there is, in my opinion, One great object in education, to which all others should be subservient, with which no other should interfere, and in comparison with which all other objects are as dust in the balance.
To learn to make such a use of all the talents which heaven has bestowed as shall lead to the attainment of everlasting glory, is the central point to which all our views and efforts ought B 4 t» to be directed: nor, unless our con* ceptions upon this subject are very dark and confused, shall we suffer any apprehension of being obliged to make a sacrifice of our happiness here, to the hopes of obtaining happiness hereafter. Did our happiness here consist in the unlimited gratification of every appetite and passion, this would certainly be the case; but even the experience of childhood is sufficient to prove the contrary.
Did any of my dear little girls ever feel so happy in the indulgence of a capricious humour, as they have done when, after having conquered the wayward inclination to disobedience, they have read in the eyes of their friends that approbation which their little hearts exulted in the consciousness of having merited? Through every stage of life the feelings in this respect will be the same. The conquest
quest gained over every inclination, which reason and religion teach us to subdue, will constantly be followed by a greater degree of happiness than the gratification of it could have procured.
To illustrate this truth was the chief aim of all the best philosophers of Greece and Rome. But you, my dear child, have been initiated in the doctrines of a philosophy more valuable than all they knew or taught; a philosophy, which, instead of laying down rules for the conduct in particular instances, extends its purifying influence to the inmost recesses of the heart. The delight with which you imbibed its sacred tenets, the deep impression which they made upon your mind, and the salutary influence which they evidently shed over your heart, have opened to me a source of hope with regard to you, which, I B 5 trust
trust in God, will never be exhausted. The morning hours we spent together will not, I flatter myself, be soon forgotten by either party; nor, while the promise you made me at parting, of pursuing the same practice, and commencing the studies of every day by reading a portion of the holy scripture, is on your part fulfilled, will the blessing, which seemed to rest upon them, be withdrawn.
In the holy scriptures you will find all that is necessary to make you "wise unto salvation." But it is not a mere speculative knowledge of all the truths which they contain, that will be thus effectual: for all that scripture teaches us is known, and acknowledged to be true, by thousands, who nevertheless continue to act just in the same manner as they would have acted, had they never heard of
a God a God or Saviour. Knowledge does not necessarily imply principle. How this happens, I shall hereafter explain.
It may, in the first place be expedient to consider what we mean by principle. It is a term so often made use of that it must be familiar to your ear; but you know I am a great friend to accuracy, with regard to our notions respecting the meaning of the words we use; nor have I often found the precaution unnecessary, especially when a term is employed in more senses than one.
When we speak of the Jirst principle of any thing, we mean something that is essential to its existence, and without which it could not be. Thus, we say that to believe in God is the Jirst principle of all religion, because without a belief in God there could be no religion B 6 whatever.