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ANCIENT AND MODERN
On the Conduct of Youth.
"HERE seems to be a peculiar propriety in addres
sing moral precepts to the rising generation. Besides that, like travellers entering on a journey, they want direction, there are circumstances which render it probable, that instruction will be more efficacious in youth than at a maturer period. Long habits of business or pleasure, and an indiscriminate intercourse with mankind, often superinduce a great degree of insenfibility; and the battered veteran at last considers the admonitions of the moralist as the vain babbling of sophist, and the declamation of a school-boy. The keen edge of moral perception is blunted by long and reiterated colliffion; and to him who has lost the finer fenfibilities, it is no less fruitless to address a moral discourse, than to represent to the dead the charms of melody, or to the blind the beauties of a picture.
But youth poffeffes sensibility in perfection; and unless education has been totally neglected, or erroneously pursued, its habits are usually virtuous. Furnished with a natural susceptibility, and free from any acquired impediment, the mind is then in the most fa
vourable state for the admission of instruction, and for learning how to live.
I will then suppose a young man present who has passed through the forms of a liberal education at school, and who is just entering on the stage of life, to act his part according to his own judgment. I will address him, with all the affection and sincerity of a parent, in the following manner :
“ You have violent passions implanted in you by « Nature for the accomplishment of her purposes; but « conclude not, as many have done to their ruin, that “ because they are violent, they are irresistible. The « fame Nature which gave you passions, gave you also o reason and a love of order. Religion, added to the *** light of Nature and the experience of mankind, has o concurred in establishing it as an unquestionable “ truth, that the irregular or intemperate indulgence “ of the passions is always attended with pain in some « mode or other, which greatly exceeds its pleasure.
“ Your passions will be easily restrained from enor“ mous excess, if you really wish and honestly endea"vour to restrain them.
But the greater part of « young men study to inflame their fury, and give “ them
a degree of force which they poffefs not in a “ state of nature. They run into temptation, and de« fire not to be delivered from evil. They knowingly
and willingly facrifice, to momentary gratifications, « the comfort of all which should sweeten the remain« der of life. Begin then with most sincerely wishing " to conquer those subtle and powerful enemies whom « you carry in your bosom. Pray for Divine altistance. « Avoid folitude the first moment a loose thought « infinuates itself, and halten to the company of those “ whom you respect. Converse not on subjects which « lead to impure ideas.
• The perverse ambition of arriving at the character is of a man of spirit by vicious audacity, has of late
universally prevailed, and has ruined the greater part 6 of the British youth. I have known many young
“ men proud of the impurest of distempers, and boast« ing of misfortunes which are attended with the “ greatest pain and misery, and ought to be accom« panied with shame. Far more have taken pains to « shine, amidst the little circle of their vicious acquain« tance, in the character of gay libertines, than to ac" quire, by useful qualities, the efteem of the good. « From motives of vanity, health and peace are facris ficed, fortunes lavished without credit or enjoyment,
every relative and personal duty neglected, and Reli“ gion boldly set at defiance. To be admitted into the “ company of those who disgrace the family title which " they inherit, thousands plunge into debauchery with." out passion, into drunkennels without convivial en
joyment, into gaming without the means or inclina« tion for play. Old age rapidly advances. When us vanity at length retreats from insult and from morti« fication, avarice fucceeds; and meanness, and disease, « and disgrace, and poverty, and discontent, and despair, “ diffuse clouds and darkness over the evening of life. “ Such is the lot of those who glory in their shame, " and are ashamed of their glory.
* Have fense and resolution enough, therefore, to “ give up all pretensions to those titles, of a fine fel« low, a rake, or whatever vulgar name the temporary “ cant of the vicious bestows on the distinguilhed liber« tine.
Preserve your principles, and be steady in " your conduct. And though your exemplary be« haviour may bring upon you the insulting and 'ironi« cal appellation of a Saint, a Puritan, or even a Me" thodist, persevere in rectitude. It will be in your
power foon, not indeed to insult, but to pity. Have
spirit, and display it. But let it bé that fort of spirit " which urges you to proceed in the path in which you « were placed by the faithful guide of your infancy. “ Exhibit a noble superiority in daring to disregard the “ artful and malicious reproaches of the vain, who “ labour to make you a convert to folly, in order to “ keep them in countenance. They will laugh at first, A 2