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security, the convenience and pleasure of human life. If from hence we go on to survey mankind; a contemplation of their different states in different ages, and especially of their ancient regulations and laws, the public wisdom of brave and great nations, will furnish variety of useful reflections to the mind: often teaching us to improve our own condition, often to be happy in it.
It must be obvious, how rational an entertainment these things are; and how useful materials they furnish, to ripen and perfect that prudence and good sense, which not only carries us through the business of life, but gives relish and stability to the pleasures of it. If then knowledge ought to be attained, the way to it ought to be made easy ; by removing difficulties, cautioning against mistakes, and leading forwards in a right method. Above all, application ought to be secured, by the authority of a prudent instructor; and emulation excited, by a number of fellow-learners.
But if education stop here, it hath only given abilities and powers, the direction of which to right or wrong purposes is greatly uncertain still. He that knows not the proper use of his own being ; what is man and whereto serveth he, what is his good and what is his evil*: may easily employ his other knowledge so as to be much the worse for it. This inquiry then is the important one. Various methods of conducting life present themselves; contradictory inclinations demand to be gratified; the conflict is painful ; the end of it may be more so: which way is right, and which shall we take ? Now there is a science, that can direct us here : can shew us an inward principle, endued with native authority to govern all the rest ; obedience to which gives a steady aim and self-approbation to our conduct, bestows on us the truest satisfactions of life, and delivers us from its sorest evils. Nor are morals only the source of private happiness, but the great foundation of mutual security, the only one of esteem and friendship amongst men. A person of true goodness, though otherwise of small accomplishments, will always make an amiable figure in society, and be a valuable part of it; whereas, without a virtuous heart, the superior abilities of the great man will only render him a more extensive mischief; and the deceitful agreeableness of the gay man qualify him to mislead, betray, and ruin, more entirely, those with whom he converses. Thus wherever wickedness increases, will misery increase also; till the end be universal confusion. For though à constitution, sinking under vice, may preserve for some time the florid look of health; yet inward strength, and lasting vigour, are what nothing but virtue, public and private, can give to any people. This is that true wisdom, in whose right hand is length of days; and in her left, riches and honour *
* Ecclus. xviii. 8.
Now the foundations of virtue are indeed laid by nature, both in the reason and affections of mankind, though fallen : but reason is so often inattentive, and affections are so easily depraved, that without further care, those moral principles, which make the best part of our inward frame, will in most men be greatly obscured, and in some, to all appearance, quite effaced. And, were even those of righter minds left each to form their private systém, tenderness for their own failings, or prejudice for those of the world, would often lead them into imperfect notions and wrong practice. One indispensable branch then of liberal education is an accurate institution in this important science: to pull off the disguises which vice affects to wear, and place the consequences of it in a just light; to point out the less obvious advantages of virtue, and shew its restraints to end in real freedom; to represent the strict connection of its several parts, and make strong the proof, that knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom; neither at any time the counsel of sinners prudence *.
* Prov. üi. 16.
And when should the science of life be taught, but in the beginning of life; before evil habits are added to original depravity : whilst the natural regard to truth and right, the only inward restraint of incautious youth, remains comparatively uncorrupt; and the seeds of sin lie yet somewhat loose on the surface of the mind; much harder to be cleared away, when once they have taken root, and twisted themselves strongly about the heart? This therefore is the favourable opportunity, in which authority and reason must exert at once their joint force. For discipline without instruction is mere tyranny: and instruction without discipline, little better than useless talk. Things owned to be fit and good are neglected, because disagreeable; things evidently hurtful pursued for present pleasure. Here authority comes in to the aid of reason; enforces virtuous application; restrains vicious indulgences; tempers the warmth of youth; prepares us for the future subordinations of life; conducts us safe through the unseen dangers of our most dangerous time; and then by gentle degrees withdraws its influence, as the power of self-government grows up.
Where want of this care leaves young persons too soon in the worst of hands, their own; it
Ecclus. xix. 22.
is dreadful to see, into what irretrievable miseries they plunge, in the very beginning of their course. And therefore the more liberty they are afterwards to enjoy: the more prudent, though not stricter, restraint they should be under at first; and entered by slow steps into the world at large, with all possible cautions given them of the hazards they are going upon, and (God knows) have little reason to be eager for.
But the most serious part of education is wanting still: the part which leads us, by the esteem of moral excellence, to honour and love that Being, in whom the perfection of it dwells; and extends our inward sense of duty, suggested first by the low and shortlived relations between us and our fellow-creatures, to the highest possible and eternal object of it, the Creator and Ruler of this universe. He, by whose pleasure we are, from whose favour all that we enjoy and hope for comes, according to whose determination our whole existence shall be happy or miserable, is not surely one with whom we are unconcerned. And, however a base nature may value itself on the impotent affectation of slighting God; every worthy mind will delight to express that veneration, and pay that obedience, which are due to him, who is the Lord of all : due by every strongest claim, whether unassisted reason discover the general laws of his moral kingdom; or Infinite Wisdom, the best judge of our circumstances, condescend to adapt to them further obligations. It is indeed the sense of our living under his government and care, that makes our condition of being desirable. Religion, filling the mind with that object which it naturally seeks, a sovereign protector, infinitely wise and good, effectually excludes all superstitious terrors; and, far
from depressing the tenderest spirit, exalts us into every thought and every hope, that is great and noble. Turbulence of passions, and obstinacy of self-will, these are the things, that tear and weaken the soul; reverence of God, by awing them into composure, strengthens every inward principle that ought to be strong; and if it prunes the luxuriances, promotes by so doing the vigour of the mind. Religion comprehends at once every motive, both of virtue and of private interest, that can either direct or support the heart in every part of conduct; joins in perpetual union our duty and our happiness; and makes the universal scheme of things consistent, beautiful, and good.
Surely then, principles of such a tendency ought to have an early and diligent cultivation in every breast; but their's especially, whose rank or profession will make it of the most public consequence. They who object against this care, as instilling prejudices, should consider, that virtue, honour, decency, are prejudices just of the same sort; and think what would follow, were men to enter upon life free from the bias of any one good quality. But in truth, God himself, not man, hath planted these just prepossessions in the heart: and all that education does, is to favour their growth. Religion, and the evidences for it, may indeed be unfairly represented by its teachers : and what part of knowledge may not? But are only the teachers of religion capable of misrepresenting it? Hath not every vicious man as strong a motive to incline him against it, as even those maintained by it have, to incline them in its favour? - Hath not fondness of novelty, and affectation of superior sense and learning, as great influence on some persons, as credulity can have on others ?