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hardened and determined always take the lead. The rest follow them with implicit submission; and make proficiency in the school of iniquity, in exact proportion to the weakness of their understandings, and the strength of their passions.
How many pass away, after this manner, some of the most valuable
of their life, tost in a whirlpool of what cannot be called pleasure, so much as mere giddiness and folly ? In the habits of perpetual connexion with idle or licentious company, all reflection is lost; while circulated from one empty head, and one thoughtless heart to another, folly shoots up into all its most ridiculous forms; prompts the extravagant unmeaning frolic in private ; or sallies forth in public into mad riot; impelled sometimes by intoxication, sometimes by mere levity of spirits.
All the while, amidst this whole course of juvenile infatuation, I readily admit, that much good-nature may still remain. Generosity and attachments may be found; nay, some awe of religion may still subsist, and some remains of those good impressions which were made upon the mind in early days. It might yet be very possible to reclaim such persons, and to form them for useful and respectable stations in the world, if virtuous and improving society should happily succeed to the place of that idle crew with whom they now associate ; if important business should occur, to bring them into a different sphere of action ; or if some reasonable stroke of affliction should in mercy be sent, to recall them to themselves, and to awaken serious and manly thought. But, if youth and vigour, and flowing fortune, continue ; if a similar succession of companions go on to amuse them, to ingross their time, and to stir up their passions ; 'the day of ruin, let them take heed and beware !-the day of irrecoverable ruin begins to draw nigh. Fortune is squandered; health is broken; friends are offended, affronted, estranged; aged parents, perhaps, sent afflicted and mourning to the dust.
There are certain degrees of vice which are chiefly stamped with the character of the ridiculous, and the contemptible; and there are also certain limits, beyond which if it pass, it becomes odious and execrable.
If, to other corruptions which the heart has already received, be added the infusion of sceptical principles, that worst of all the evil communications of sinners, the whole of morals is then on the point of being overthrown. For, every crime can then be palliated to conscience; every check and restraint which had hitherto remained, is taken away. He who, in the beginning of
soothed himself with the thought that while he indulged his desires he did hurt to no man; now pressed by the necessity of supplying those wants into which his expensive pleasures have brought him, goes on without remorse to defraud and to oppress. The lover of pleasure now becomes hardened and cruel ; violates his trust, or betrays his friend; becomes a man of treachery, or a man of blood; satisfying, or at least endeavouring all the while to satisfy himself, that circumstances form his excuse ; that by necessity he is impelled ; and that, in gratifying the passions which nature had implanted within him, he does no more than follow nature.
Miserable and deluded man! to what art thou come at the last ? Dost thou
tend to follow nature, when thou art contemning the laws of the God of nature ? when thou art stifling his voice within thee, which remonstrates against thy crimes ? when thou art violating the best part of thy nature, by counteracting the dictates of justice and humanity? Dost thou follow nature, when thou renderest thyself an useless animal on the earth; and not useless only, but noxious to the society to which thou belongest, and to which thou art a disgrace; noxious, by the bad example thou hast set; noxious, by the crimes thou hast committed ; sacrificing innocence to thy guilty pleasures, and introducing shame and ruin into the habitations of peace; defrauding of their due the unsuspicious who have trusted thee ; involving in the ruins of thy fortune many a worthy family; reducing the industrious and the aged to misery and want; by all which, if thou hast escaped the deserved sword of justice, thou hast at least brought on thyself the resentment and the reproach of all the respectable and the worthy ?-Tremble then at the view of the gulf which is opening before thee. Look with horror at the preci
pice, on the brink of which thou standest; and if yet a moment be left for retreat, think how thou mayest escape, and be saved.
This brings me to what I proposed as the next head of discourse; to suggest some means that may be used for stopping in time the progress of such mischiefs ; to point out some remedies against the fatal infection of evil communications.
The first, and most obvious is, to withdraw from all associations with bad men, with persons either of licentious principles, or of disorderly conduct. I have shown to what issue such dangerous connexions are apt to bring men at last. Nothing, therefore, is of more importance for the young, to whom I now chiefly address myself, than to be careful in the choice of their friends and companions. This choice is too frequently made without much thought, or is determined by some casual connexion ; and yet, very often, the whole fate of their future life depends upon it. The circumstances which chiefly attract the liking and the friendship of youth, are vivacity, good humour, engaging manners, and a cheer