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ON THE FORCE OF EXAMPLE.
WHAT has lately been advanced, to prove the dangers which await you in society, does no less strongly apply towards enforcing the necessity of exhibiting in your own conduct a contrary example. If you find by experience, that a levity of conversation. incites a looseness of principle, and renders the practice of vice more easy, remember, my young friend, that the influence of your behaviour is as forcible towards others, as you find their manners powerfully affect yourself. The allurements of vice are suited to the passions, and promise indul. gen ce to the indolence of the human mind. Self-denial requires fortitude and exertion; and therefore where present gratification is the only aim, the debate between desire and duty can be but short. But if you can contrive in a moment of such importance, to throw the weight of example into the scale, it might frequently determine the wavering judgment, and save your companion from the commission of a crime. As the sense of shame is one of our most powerful springs of action, so it will equally
contribute to assist a good cause, or to advance a bad one; but the difference is great; in the one case we blush at what ought to inspire us with confidence, and in the other we are driven to take refuge in virtue, from a laudable sense of decency. Then it is that shame operates to the purpose for which God and nature designed it, as a preservative from evil, and an incitement to goodness. It stimulates the ingenuous mind to imitate what is excellent, and to subdue in itself what is disapproved by the worthy. The great Governor of the world has evinced his desire of our fulfilling every social obligation, by placing us in such a state that we cannot subsist without mutual assistance; you should therefore, my dear reader, regard it as one of the indispensa ble duties of your condition, to set an example to others, which they may follow without reproach: and as Providence sees fit, in the present order of his government, to act by the means of second causes, so you may be designed to promote the highest purposes, and, by a train of circumstances seemingly minute, may be the instrument of important advantage. The mild, submissive, and pious behaviour of Joseph,
when he was thrown into undeserved confinement, recommended him to the notice of the gaoler, and by that means introduced him to the Baker and Butler of Pharaoh, which in the ead proved the occasion of his introduction to that monarch, and the first apparent cause of Israel's residence in Egypt. The important series of events, which followed to the Jewish nation, as well as to his own family, you are well acquainted with; but Infinite Wisdom only can know how many hearts may have been supported in affliction by the example of his patience, nor through the course of time how many may, by the consideration of his conduct, have been excited to resist evil solicitations, or to practise the mild forbearance which he showed towards his offending brothers; nor can you, my young friend, possibly foresee to how remote a distance your influence may extend. The persecuted, friendless, and deserted Joseph, might have pleaded with some appearance of reason, the unfavourable situation in which he was placed, as an excuse for the consequence which might follow his example; for who could be supposed in circumstances less likely to attract observation? who could imitate a
prisoner, confined under the malicious charge of complicated crimes, or take lessons of piety from such a supposed offender? Let this reflection be present with you through life; and if at any time you should unhappily forfeit your good name, remember that a lost character should incite your endeavours to regain it, but can never be urged as an argument to defend a further deviation. Whatever motive it may arise from, a disregard of reputation is dangerous to all; but to the youthful mind it is the certain inlet to impiety. Joseph denied the importunity of his lascivious mistress, and trusted his fame to the protection of that God who knew his innocence, and would in his own time display it to the world; so you are never to yield to evil counsel for fear of the aspersions of the wicked, but may depend upon the full vindication of your character from Almighty Goodness; and if he should see fit to prove your virtue by delay, yet of this you may rest assured, that in the day of future recompence, your fame shall be attested with full splendour before an assembled world. At present either good or evil report cannot extend very far; the name of an individual, in the most exalted
station, can but reach through the country where they dwell, or at most through neighbouring kingdoms; and where the mindcan be conscious that the God of the universe beholds its innocence, the calumny, if it should spread through different nations, may hurt his sensibility, but will not shake his immovable virtue. Be this principle, then, the basis of your conduct, to behave so as to deserve reputation, and to set such an example as others ought to imitate. Then will you be acquitted of your obligations as a social being, and worthily sustain the station in which your Creator has placed you. Excuse me if I dwell upon this important subject, but it is peculiarly necessary that you should discriminate between a contempt of the general opinion of mankind, and a regard to a few individuals, who are in their own characters either foolish or wicked. The world in general, however defective in practice, is always inclined to applaud virtue. It is true that goodness may be misrepresented, and like Joseph may suffer disgrace on false suspicion; but still it is through a wrong judgment of facts, and not from a hatred to piety, that the obloquy is incurred; so that merit would be sure of