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This History is adapted to the use of families and schools
-and forms a convenient Manuel for travellers and
My Dear Friend,
AS you are now commencing a course of classical education, and need the guidance of those who have preceded you in the same course, you cannot but receive with kindness, and treat with attention, the remarks of a friend, whose affection for you, excites in him a deep solicitude for your
future reputation and happiness. I feel the more desirous to furnish you with some hints for the direction of your studies, for I have experienced the want of such helps myself; no small portion of my life having been spent in correcting the errors of my early education.
It has been often remarked, that men are the creatures of habit. The rudiments of knowledge we receive by tradition; and our first actions are, in a good degree, modelled by imitation. Nor ought it to be otherwise. The respect which young persons feel for their parents, superiors and predecessors is no less the dictate of reason, than the requirement of heaven; and the propensity to imitation, is no less natural, than it may be useful. These principles however, like many others, when pursued or indulged to an extreme, produce evil effects; as they often lead the young to embrace error as well as truth. Some degree of confidence in the opinions of those whom we respect, is always a duty-in the first stages
of life, our confidence in parents must be implicit--and our obedience to their will, complete and unreserved. In later stages of life, as the intellectual faculties expand and the reasoning power gains strength, implicit confidence in the opinions even of the most distinguished men, ceases to be a duty. We are to regard their opinions only as probably correct; but refer the ultimate decision of this point to evidence to be collected from our own reasonings or research
All men are liable to err; and a knowledge of this fact should excite in us constant solicitude to obtain satisfactory reasons for every opinion we embrace.
As men are furnished with powers of reason, it is obviously the design of the creator, that reason should be employed as their guide, in every stage of life. But reason, without cultivation, without experience and without the aids of rev. elation, is a roiserable guide ; it often errs from ignorance, and more often from the impulse of passion. The first ques. tions a rational being should ask himself, are, Who made me? Why was I made? What is my duty ? The proper answers to these questions, and the practical results, constitute, my dear friend, the whole business of life.
Now reason, unaided by revelation, cannot answer these questions. The experience of the Pagan World has long since determined this point. Revelation alone furnishes satisfactory information on these subjects. Let it then be the first study that occupies your mind, to learn from the scriptures the character and will of your maker; the end or purpose for which he gave you being and intellectual powers, and the duties he requires you to perform. In all that regards faith and práctice, the scriptures furnish the principles, precepts and rules, by which you are to be guided. Your reputation among men; your own tranquillity of mind in this life ; and all rational hope of future happiness, depend on an exact conformity of conduct to the commands of God revealed in the sacred oracles.
The duties of men are summarily comprised in the Ten Commandments, consisting of two tables. One comprehending the duties which we owe immediately to God—the other, the duties we owe to our fellow men. Christ himself has reduced these commandments under two general precepts, which enjoin upon us, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind and with all our strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets-that is, they comprehend the substance of all the doctrines and precepts of the Bible, or the whole of religion.
The first duty of man then is, 10 love and reverence the Supreme Being. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom or religion. But the love of God implies some knowledge of his character and attributes--and these are to be Jearned partly by a view of his stupendous works in creation, but chiefly from the revelations of himself recorded in the Scriptures. The great constituent of love to the Supreme Being is however an entire coinplacency in his character and attributes, and unqualified approbation of his law, as a rule of life. Such complacency and approbation can exist only in a holy heart-a heart that delights in moral excellence. But wherever they exist, they produce a correspondent purity of life. The natural effect then of a real conformity of heart to the First and Great Commandment, which enjoins supreme love to God, is, to produce conformity of life to the injunction of the second command, to love our neighbor as ourselves.
In applying the commands of God to practice, be careful to give to them the full intended latitude of meaning. The love of God comprehends the love of all his attributes---the love of his justice in condemning and punishing sin—as well as of his mercy in forgiving and saving penitent siuners—the love of his sovereignty as well as of his grace. The divine character is an entire thing and there can be no genuine love to the Supreme Being which does not embrace his whole char