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NATURAL and REVEALED
R E L I G I O N.
The Elements of NATURAL RELIGION ;
To which is prefixed,
An Essay on the best Method of communicating
religious Knowledge to the Members of Christian
BY JOSEPH PRIESTLEY, LL. D. F.R.S.
Wisdom is the principal Thing,
TO THE YOUNGER PART OF THE
CONGREGATION OF PROTES-
My young friends,
I of natural
T was on your account that I com
posed these Institutes and revealed religion, and to you I take the liberty to dedicate them.
It is the earnest wish of my heart, that
your minds may be well established in the found principles of religious knowledge, because I am fully persuaded, that nothing else can be a fufficient foundation of a virtu. ous and truly respectable conduct in life, or of good hope in death. A
mind destitute of knowledge (and, comparatively speaking, 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 acquiring good principles, be assured that
you are acquiring bad ones ; if
be not forming virtuous habits, you are, how insensibly soever to your felves, forming vicious ones; and, instead
of becoming those amiable objects in yourselves, and those 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, receive ing 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
feriously to reflect upon your fituation and prospects. Form, then, the generous resolution (and every thing depends upon your resolution) of being at present what you will certainly wish you had been some years. a 3