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TO THE SECOND EDITION.
Let it be supposed, that all persons in the United States, who are more than twenty years of age, were inquired of, “What are your motives, in all the acts which you do, or omit ?” The answer would be, substantially, this : “ To get all the good I can, and avoid all the evil I can." Suppose, that they were then inquired of; “What do you take to be good, and what, evil ?” The answers to this question, would probably divide the whole number into classes, among which these might be found: First, Educated persons who consider human life a phenomenon, not to be accounted for, nor worth the attempt to account for; and that in passing through it, one must be governed by circumstances, and manage as well as he can. Second, Those who are intent on worldly good, and who think it can be found in riches, distinctions, and superiority over others ; and who are strangers to all motives which do not conduce to these ends. Third, Those who think that this system of being is vexatious and intolerable; the product of malignant design, and who sincerely believe, that anything may be done that can be, if the operation of human laws can be avoided. Fourth, Those who consider hu
man life as intended to be a continued scene of sorrow and probation, and whose motives are, to bear affliction so well, as to be rewarded for it, in a future existence. Fifth, A very numerous class, who never had a serious thought why human life is, or what its end may be, or what is to come after it; and who have no motives that they can define, or account for ; but who are governed merely by imitation and habit, and who think all men mortal, but themselves.
Suppose that any one should see, that such is the condition of the human race, and should task himself with the labor of inquiring into this mystery of human life ; resolving to throw off all prejudices of education, habit, and custom, and to govern himself, in his research, by plain common sense ; and suppose that he should come to the conclusion, that man's state of being is from AWFUL AUTHORITY, and unquestionable benevolence; that man is necessarily a part of a created universe, and that whatsoever man experiences, of suffering or sorrow, (independently of the operation of general laws, indispensable to the whole system) arises from ignorance, or disobedience :
Suppose that in looking back on his own life, and on the lives of others, he can clearly discern, that all disappointments and miseries, can be traced to misapprehension of the purposes for which life was given; and that if he, and others, had been better instructed, and had observed proper rules, of conduct, life might have been far more useful, individually, and socially:
Suppose he should think that the errors of life may be referred to defective instruction in youth ; and that the most important of all teaching is that, which has been most neglected, namely, How TO LIVE; and that all other teaching, when this is neglected, tends, as readily, to individual and social evil, as to individual and social good :
Suppose it to be obvious that excellence in professional pursuit, in mechanic arts, and in all the sciences, depends on knowing and observing accurate rules, might it not follow, that there may be rules for living, applicable to all who live, as certainly as that the atmosphere is necessary to all who live by breathing :
Suppose it should be perceived; that in all those actions which are adapted to give pleasure, and to make human beings satisfied with themselves, and with each other, there are rules, which, if well observed, would make of life a beneficent gift, to be dutifully acknowledged :
Then, would it be assuming too much, to offer the result of examination, though begun in mere speculative curiosity, in the hope that it might have some influence on the young, and lead them to some better knowledge of the purposes intended in human life ?
It is admitted by all, that there is a science in the conduct of human life. It is believed that the teaching of this science should begin, as soon as any other teaching begins.
Teaching, in all things that are worth learning, is conducted by a series of rules, the application of which is not known to the pupil when he begins his course of instruction. If one should desire to make his son a practical ship builder, for example, the son would be placed where he could see the rules carried into effect, which would successively lead him to the attainment of the intended object. At the expiration of his apprenticeship, he would be
able to build a ship by the application of the scientific and practical rules wherein he had been instructed, and in no other way. If he find, in any case, that he has erred, he would consider whether he understood his rule, and whether it had been rightly used, and would correct his own errors. Morals must be taught in like manner. The object of this volume is so to teach ; that is, to show, that there are moral rules, and their reasonable foundation ; and, also, that these rules are not for one, or two classes of persons, but equally for all the members of society.
It is well known that there are persons who maintain, that the general diffusion of knowledge tends rather to disorder society, than to regulate it for the better. They doubt, especially, as to that education which raises young persons above the condition wherein they may find themselves in adult life; they assert that desires and expectations are thus excited which cannot be satisfied; and that the good which might have been had, with more limited information, is lost, without compensation for the loss. This opinion must be founded on the exclusion of all instruction in philosophical views of human life, which have their authenticity in just views of Christian revelation. Can any sensible man maintain, that a cultivator of the earth, or that an artificer in materials which come from the earth, will be disqualified to pursue his vocations contentedly, and profitably, because he is well informed as to the real condition of the human race, the action of matter on matter, the true causes of (what is called) the inequality of social life, and the true principles of social union ? Admit, that mere knowledge, which has no chastening of moral teaching is