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To THE YOUNGER PART OF THE
CONGREGATION OF PROTESTANT
My young Friends,
T was on your account that I composed
these Institutes of natural and revealed religion, and to you I take the liberty to dedicate them.
It is the earnest with of my heart, that your minds may be well established in the sound principles of religious knowledge, because I am fully persuaded, that nothing else can be a sufficient foundation of a virtuous and truly respectable conduct in life, or of good hope in death. A mind destitute of knowledge (and, comparatively speakVOL. I.
ing, no kind of knowledge, besides that of religion, deserves the name) is like a field on which no culture has been bestowed, which, the richer it is, the ranker weeds it will produce. If nothing good be sown in it, it will be occupied by plants that are useless or noxious.
Thus, the mind of man can never be wholly barren. Through our whole lives we are subject to successive impressions ; for, either new ideas are continually flowing in, or traces of the old ones are marked deeper. If, therefore, you be not acquire ing good principles, be assured that acquiring bad ones; if you be not forming virtuous habits, you are, how insensibly foever to yourselves, forming vicious ones ; and, instead of becoming those amiable objects in yourselves, and thofe valuable members of society, which nature, and the God of nature intended that you should be,
you will be at best, useless cumberers of the ground, a dead weight upon the community, receiving support and advantage, but contributing nothing in return; or you will be the pests of society, growing continually more corrupt yourselves, and contributing to the corruption of others.
Finding yourselves, therefore, in such a world as this, in which nothing is at a stand, it behoves you seriously to reflect upon your situation and prospects. Form, then, the generous resolution (and every thing depends upon your resolution) of being at present what you will certainly
had been some years hence, what your best friends now wish you to be, and what your
inaker has intended, fitted, and enabled you to be.
Above all things, be careful to improve and make use of the reason which God has
powers will be
given you, to be the guide of your lives, to check the extravagance of your passions, and to aslist you in acquiring that knowledge, without which your
rational of no advantage to you. If you would distinguish yourselves as men, and attain the true dignity, and proper happiness of your natures, it must be by the exercise of those faculties which are peculiar to you as men. If you have no higher objects than the gratification of your animal appetites and pasfions, you rank yourselves with the brute beasts ; but as you will still retain that refiečiion, which they have not, you will never have that unallayed enjoyment of a sensual life which they have. In fact, you are incapable of the happiness of brute animals. Aspire, therefore, to those superior pursuits and gratifications for which formed, and which are the prerogative and glory of your natures.