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only motive for keeping them was this,Whatever revolutions might happen, either with regard to you or myself, that I might possess some memorials of a friendship which even then I valued, but for which I now have better cause. I shall examine them all; and shall deliver such as are exceptionable into your own hands. Or, if
desire it, I shall make yourself judge of what shall be preserv. ed, or whether any should*.
To Mr WILLIAM Smellie from *******
Our last nights conversation was so in, teresting, and so imperfect, that I cannot help resuming it.
* Had there been no other motive for the rigid delicacy observed in communicating this correspondence to the public, which has been already explained, this would have been considered as an imperious command, or testamentory rule of conduct, for the
Your great objection to communicating seems to be, “ The perfection of virtue which is requisite.” No doubt, new and complete obedience must be resolved upon, but in a way consistent with human imperfection. Christian morality, in itself, cannot be conceived as too pure and perfect ; but there seems an impropriety in supposing that perfection to be requisite to qualify us for a means of attaining it. The object of Christianity is to train us to virtue; and all its institutions are adapted to this end. There are stated seasons of instruction, that our knowledge and virtue may be continually increasing. There are stated acts of devotion enjoined, because there still are sins to be confessed, and pardon and assistance to be asked. A stated memorial of Christs death is instituted, which supposes a tendency to forget it, and to forget that horror at guilt which it so strongly inculcates.
PREPARATION for these several acts of religion is surely proper, and the most virtuous will perform them the most worthily; but still they are only means of virtue ; and consequently a desire after, rather than the actual possession, seems to be the natural pre
paration ; and a desire for higher degrees of
the preparation for the more solemn act. After all, if the high idea of perfection is conceived requisite, it is not an argument for absolute and determined neglect, but rather for deliberate and zealous preparation. You conceive that guilt afterwards will be highly aggravated ; and to be sure it will, in proportion to the fitness and excellence of the means; but the laws of virtue are of themselves sacred and obligatory, and consequently the means of virtue are so ; wherefore the deliberate and obstinate neglect of the means is an aggravation on the other hand. To have used means and come short of the end, bespeaks a feebleness and inconstancy; yet the attempt is good ; and the success, however small, is better than none. But the neglect even of the means bespeaks a total unconcernedness ; and its pernicious effects, though not so obvious, are equally real ; for to it must be imputed the loss of all these pious sentiments, gratitude, love, remorse, and of that partial or temporary reformation which the use of means produces, likewise the suffering neglect to grow into a habit, and giving scope to that self-deceit and sophistry which are natural to the
mind, when determined upon any thing inproper.
You are afraid of shewing a bad éxample afterwards-a very reasonable ground of fear. Example, especially when there is any thing of respect and deference, is important and sacred. Next to the virtues of ones own heart, it deserves the chief attention, as it is the most successful method of recommending goodness. Hence, it is surely agreeable to the designs of Providence, that they who are sincerely virtuous, and considered as such, should be exemplary in all the means of virtue ; and the fear of coming short, after using the most excellent of the means, will operate as an additional motive to become a perfect pattern.
You object to all this, that the not communicating is overlooked; whereas the doing it and behaving inconsistently is notorious. Were example the only thing, there might be something in this ; yet not even then, unless there be more than an equal chance of behaving inconsistently, and of that inconsistent behaviour being known. Neither is the neglect of it so wholly over
looked : By the many to be sure it is; but every one has his circle, who know and observe him. There are shallow and unthinking infidels, who grasp at such an argument: --there are timorous and diffident youth, who are thereby the more discouraged ;-to encourage one in this class, to silence one in that, are no inconsiderable objects in the way of example.
I KNOW you can make allowance for selfdeceit on your own part, as well as for prejudice on mine, and will therefore excuse a suspicion that the above and other objections of the like kind are not the real ones, at least not the strongest. Such refinements are oftener the product of a mind already determined, than the motives of determination : They soothe and quiet the principle of
reason, or, more properly, they are the operation of that principle bent one way, eager upon every objection and every argument that may tend to confirm and make it obstinate. If you read over these hints with an inclination not to be persuaded, but rather to detect false reasoning; that, though not intended, will very probably be found, and
may suggest this inference, that an ar