« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »
GROWTH OF PRINCIPLES.
the best earthly inheritance you can have. But be assured you cannot secure it without some established principles. Men must know where to find you and what to expect from you. And the higher your principles rise, and the more firmly they are maintained, the more will you secure the confidence of those whose confidence is of most value. Becoming thus committed to the sympathies and to the fellowship of men of character and influence, you will be delivered from the snares of “evil men and seducers," and incited to rise to something good and great. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise."
4. It is important to establish right principles while young, so as to secure thcir growth. The principles of belief and conduct formed in youth, gain constant strength by age and use; they grow with our growth, and strengthen with our strength. The man who waits till middle age before he establishes his principles, is like the husbandman who should wait till mid-summer before he plants his corn. He then wants the previous growth. Or he is like the navigator who should wait till he has been out at sea long enough to half finish his voyage, before he lays his course.
When a man comes to be exposed to the severe trials and the strong temptations of the world, as they beset him in the midst of life and business,
he needs the protection of principles early formed and faithfully nurtured to maturity. Principles but just then implanted, or just beginning to sprout, are not adequate to his necessities.
They are very liable to be broken down and destroyed. You cannot trust to principles formed late in life, as you can to those formed early.
5. It is extremely difficult to establish principles in muture age, after associations, prejudices, and habits are formed. If we speak of principles as matters of doctrinal belief, all your cherished associations and prejudices are then to be surmounted; if we speak of them as rules of conduct, all your previous habits are then to be corrected. This is no easy task. A large portion of the strength of your remaining days, must then be spent in counteracting the evil tendencies of your previous principles. Indeed, so powerful and abiding is the influences of early principles, and so disastrous the want of them, that in most and perhaps all cases in which men have risen to eminence, they have done it upon the strength of principles early formed. The germs of what they were to become, were seen sprouting at an early age. In Washington, for example, how early did that principle of integrity appear, which ripened to perfection, and became the basis of his future greatness and of the salvation of his country. Moral principles are not
strictly innate in any human bosom. They are ii all cases to be formed ; and the sooner it is done, the easier.
6. But the strongest reason for establishing yourself early in right principles, remains to be mentioned. God commands it. And he has therewith associated his blessing, which is the only perfect security, either for this life or for that which is to come. To believe what is morally true, and to act upon principles morally right, is to possess the character which God approves, and to be prepared both for earth and for Heaven.
Become thus early established in right principles, and you will never be turned out of the way by the delusions of error, or by the solicitations of pleasure, or the impulses of blind passion; your defence will be the munition of rocks. In the agitations of life, the convulsions of death, and the retributions of eternity, you will fear no evil, for God will be with you.
II. Let us now proceed to inquire what right principles are, and how they may be known and formed. All sound morality has its foundation in religion, but I shall give to religion a more full and distinct consideration in a subsequent chapter.
The principles of belief are of numerous grades, from gross atheism to sound religion; and the principles of conduct also graduate in like manner. The first elevation is only a refinement upon the
pleasures of the brutes. It implies the exercise of intellect, but it is exerted merely for the purpose of enhancing and prolonging the pleasures of sensuality. There are in all communities some men who, as is said of a great portion of the French nation, adopt no higher principle of action, than just to secure to themselves and to the objects of their favor the highest and longest continued sensual gratifications.
The next elevation carries us just above the mere pleasures of sensuality, to the lower gratifications of vanity. Here we find the fop and the dandy, whose character is manufactured by the tailor and the dancing master, and who is never so much in his glory, as when exhibiting his fine person, dress and manners, to best advantage. In the same company we find those trifling and vain spirits of the other sex, who spend so many hours in gazing with transport upon the mirror, at what they suppose to be beauty of form, complexion, and dress; and who are never so much delighted as in the assembly, the cotillon, or the drawing-room, where they can exhibit their fancied charms to highest admiration; while others, conscious of not possessing their personal attractions, display their vanity in aping the manners and aspiring to the society of the more fashionable circles.
Vanity of person, dress, equipage, furniture, station, rank, name, and distinction, constitutes the
ruling passion and the controlling principle of many weak minds of each sex and of every age.
Not far from this grade, we find those who adopt what is called the principle of honor. As honor is a relative term, the standard of right conduct of course varies with the character of the communities in which they reside. It is the governing principle of such men to do what public sentiment declares to be honorable. Hence in some communities, their external morality will be almost fault
in others, where the standard of morality is lower, they will desert the house of God, and indulge in walks and rides of pleasure upon the Sabbath ; in others, they will fight duels ; in others, mete out to their enemies retaliation and revenge, according to the rule of a heathen writer, that it is equally dishonorable to be outdone by a friend in conferring friendship, and by an enemy in inflicting injury ; in others, they will practice gambling, swindling, drunkenness, and seduction ; in others, they will perhaps do all these things — because they are honorable, and perhaps more honorable than any other conduct in their place. Thus, with the same fallen and unprincipled heart, in Boston, with one class of associates, they will violate the Sabbath ; in New-York, with another class of associates, they will act the character of the rake and the seducer; in New Orleans, they will add gambling and duelling; in Paris, avow atheism, and laugh at